Uproar in House of Commons as Theresa May publishes her Brexit plan

Politics

The controversial plan prompted the resignation of chief negotiator David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

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Source: Markus Schreiber

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May has published the UK’s plan for future ties with the European Union after Brexit just days after it prompted high-profile resignations from her cabinet.

May wrote in a foreword to the controversial policy paper, which calls for a free trade area and common rules with the EU for goods, that reaching a Brexit agreement with Brussels “requires pragmatism and compromise from both sides”.

The new Brexit secretary Dominic Raab announced the White Paper’s publication in the House of Commons just before 1pm, causing uproar among MPs who were “furious” that they hadn’t been given copies of it beforehand.

  • You can find the 104-page White Paper here

So what does it say about Ireland?

A lot of the rhetoric used by Theresa May and most of her government in relation to Ireland and a possible border are repeated in the White Paper:

Taken together, such a partnership would see the UK and the EU meet their commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland through the overall future relationship: preserving the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK; honouring the letter and the spirit of the Belfast (‘Good Friday’) Agreement; and ensuring that the operational legal text the UK will agree with the EU on the ‘backstop’ solution as part of the Withdrawal Agreement will not have to be used.

The paper speaks of establishing a free trade area for goods between the EU and the UK, which in theory would avoid a hard border.

It would avoid the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, without harming the internal market of the UK – doing so in a way that fully respects the integrity of the EU’s Single Market, Customs Union, and its rules-based framework.

This includes an agreement on agri-food and fisheries regulations, which would “remove the need to undertake additional regulatory checks at the border – avoiding the need for any physical infrastructure”.

This would, however, mean that the UK would have to adopt the EU’s rules on all goods, a proposal that most Brexiteers turn their nose up at.

The White Paper claims that the arrangement “would protect the uniquely integrated supply chains and ‘just-in-time’ processes that have developed across the UK and the EU over the last 40 years, and will remain important given our geographical proximity, and the jobs and livelihoods dependent on them”.

Although the “country of origin” principle – where a company based in one EU country can broadcast into any other member state – will no longer apply, the UK’s commitments to the provision of Irish language broadcasting in Northern Ireland by RTE and TG4, as set out in the Belfast (“Good Friday”) Agreement will be guaranteed, the White Paper said.

But the White Paper doesn’t include a shared agreement on services and investment – as London is eager to protect its valuable services industry and doesn’t want to see the EU overseeing it through an authority in which it has no input (the European Courts of Justice).

It says that a new services arrangement will provide “regulatory flexibility, recognising that the UK and the EU will not have current levels of access to each other’s markets”.

Irish government’s response

The publication of the White Paper, eagerly awaited by the European Union and the Irish government, was thrown into doubt earlier this week after the UK’s chief negotiator David Davis resigned, followed shortly by Foreign Secretary and prominent Brexiteer Boris Johnson.

Reacting to the news of its publication this afternoon, a government spokesperson said:

“The government welcomes the publication of the detailed White Paper on the future EU-UK relationship. We will consult with our EU lead negotiator Michel Barnier and his team and our other EU partners.

We hope the publication of the White Paper can inject momentum into negotiations and want to see the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK. However, time is running out.
In terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and it must contain a legally operable backstop.

“We look forward to negotiations intensifying over coming weeks. But equally, contingency preparations for all possible outcomes will intensify further.”

– with reporting from AFP, more to follow