UK Government Brexit white paper ‘falls short’, Scottish Government says

Written by Jenni Davidson on 12 July 2018 in News

The paper sets out the UK Government’s proposals for a post-Brexit relationship with the EU, but the Scottish Government suggested it offered “little reassurance”

External affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop - Image credit: Scottish Government

The UK Government’s Brexit white paper “falls short” and offers “little reassurance” for those worried about the effect of leaving the EU on the economy, Scottish Government external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.

The white paper sets out the UK Government’s blueprint for Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU, outlining in more detail the plans that were shared with the UK Cabinet at Chequers last week.

In her introduction to the white paper, Theresa May suggested the proposals were an evolution of plans based on discussions with the EU.

She said: “Some of the first proposals each side advanced were not acceptable to the other. That is inevitable in a negotiation.

“So we have evolved our proposals, while sticking to our principles.

“The proposal set out in this White Paper finds a way through which respects both our principles and the EU’s.”

Presenting the white paper in the House of Commons, UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said the paper was a “new and detailed proposal” for a “principled, pragmatic and ambitious future partnership between the UK and the EU”.

There was some disruption as MPs objected to the fact that they had not seen the white paper that they were supposed to be debating and proceedings had to be halted by the speaker as copies were handed out.

The plan includes a “facilitated customs arrangement”, which Raab said would remove the need for routine customs checks between the UK and the EU.

The paper confirms that the UK will leave the single market and the customs union, but proposes a free trade agreement on goods, leading to “frictionless trade”.

While free movement of people will end, the paper suggests that no visas will be needed for people to come from the EU for visits or short-term business trips.

It also proposes continued close working with the EU in what it calls an “association agreement”, with continued collaboration on areas such as security and crime.

Hyslop suggested that while the white paper provides some evidence that the UK government had realised “the damage of leaving the EU”, there was “a long way to go” before the risks were mitigated.

She added: "While the paper provides an indication that the UK wants to participate in pan-EU programmes in areas such as science and research, there continue to be too many unknowns on issues such as whether the UK's proposals can deliver continued use of the European Arrest Warrant and what they mean for the future migration of people.

“The UK Government has fallen short on employment rights and environmental protections and, instead of committing to matching EU standards, they are only promising not to fall behind the current position.

"There is still an opportunity in these final few months of negotiations to encourage the UK to adopt the only sensible position of remaining within the Single Market and the Custom Union and to put a stop to some of the damage that Brexit will do.”

The Scottish Greens’ Europe spokesperson, Ross Greer, said the white paper showed a “blatant disregard” for Scotland.

He said: “Experts have predicted that Scotland will face a difficult task in attracting people from the EU and beyond post-Brexit, so it shows a blatant disregard for Scotland’s needs by ending the free movement of people, and worse still, saying nothing in the plan about how we attract doctors, nurses and other vital professionals.”

Meanwhile, The UK in a Changing Europe director Professor Anand Menon suggested the white paper represented “a slight pinking of the UK’s red lines” to ensure the absence of a border on the island of Ireland, which was “a welcome recognition of the urgency of that particular problem”.

But he added that it was “far from being a solution to the Irish question or the issue of the broader trading relationship”.

Liz Cameron of Scottish Chambers of Commerce welcomed the detail on the UK Government’s approach to mobility, but added that “urgent clarity” was needed on the longer-term arrangements for the recruitment of workers from EU and non-EU countries.

The GMB union criticised the “shambolic scenes” in the Commons as the white paper was handed round and suggested these reflected the UK Government’s “general shambles” on Brexit.

It called the Brexit white paper “woolly words”, complaining about a lack of detail and suggesting the proposed customs arrangements rely on technology “that doesn’t exist”.

The proposals have yet to be considered by the EU and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, tweeted that they bloc would “analyse” the document with the European Parliament and member states in light of European Commission guidelines.

He added that he was “looking forward to negotiations” with the UK beginning next week.

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