There were scenes of chaos in the House of Commons as Ministers threw copies of the UK Government’s White Paper ‘The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union’at MPs resulting in the Speaker having to suspend business so that parliamentarians could read it.
The White Paper aims to explain how the UK’s future relationship with the EU would work. This, of course, is subject to negotiations so the White Paper is presenting the UK Government’s wish list.
In her introductory statement Prime Minister Theresa May says:
” the British people voted to leave the European Union.
“And that is what we will do – leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, ending free movement and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in this country, leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy, and ending the days of sending vast sums of money to the EU every year.
“We will take back control of our money, laws, and borders, and begin a new exciting chapter in our nation’s history.”
The vote to Leave the EU highlighted the divisions within the United Kingdom which is itself a political union of England, Scotland ,Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU and Wales and England voted to Leave. Gibraltar also voted to remain. Two of these countries, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar share a border with an EU country.
With resignations galore recently from Theresa May’s cabinet Dominic Rabb is now the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU.
He had this to say:
“The plan outlined in this White Paper….would take the UK out of the Single Market and the Customs Union.
“It would give the UK the flexibility we need to strike new trade deals around the world, in particular breaking new ground for agreements in services.
“It would maintain frictionless trade in goods between the UK and the EU through a new
free trade area, responding to the needs of business.
“It would deliver on both sides’ commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland, avoiding a hard border without compromising the EU’s autonomy or UK sovereignty. “
Association Agreement between the UK and the EU
The UK Government is proposing an “Association Agreement between the UK and the EU.”
This is a wish for a bespoke deal which no other country has, so not membership of the EEA or of EFTA but an arrangement only for the UK. This would require the agreement of all remaining 27 countries of the EU.
The White Paper states that there would be a number of separate agreements all covering different aspects of areas where the UK currently works with the other 27 countries as a member of the EU. As an example the White Paper cites the deal between the EU and Canada (CETA).
The CETA deal took 7 years to negotiate. EU Ready to Sign Huge Trade Deal with Canada The UK failed to protect the named status of Scottish produce in the CETA deal . Other EU countries ensured their products remained protected. Scotch Missed
Common Rule Book
The UK proposes to have a ‘Common Rule Book’ where it picks out the EU rules and requirements it wants to continue with. Where the UK decides to work with the EU in various bodies or agencies the White Paper concedes that there would have to be a financial commitment.
The White Paper intends that both the UK and the EU will have reached agreement on this by October of this year. This means the UK Parliament and the EU Parliament would have to have debated the ‘agreement’ and voted on it over a matter of weeks as summer recess will take up some of the time.
Reaction by the Scottish Government
Commenting on behalf of the Scottish Government Fiona Hyslop, External Affairs Secretary said:
“The Scottish Government has been consistently clear that the best way to protect Scotland’s interests and foster future growth – short of full EU membership which the people of Scotland voted for – is continued membership of the European Single Market and Customs Union.
“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 Government will continue to make that case and to argue for much greater engagement with the UK Government to ensure Scotland’s interests are protected.”
Supreme Court Challenge
The Scottish Parliament voted overwhelmingly to protect the current powers it has in a Continuity Bill. The UK Government is arguing that all powers after Brexit should be returned to London even ones that are currently managed by the devolved administrations. As a consequence of this the UK Government is contesting the Scottish Parliament’s Continuity Bill in the Supreme Court. The case is to be heard on 24th of July.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame