Two years after U.K. citizens voted for the country to withdraw from the European Union—and eight months before it legally has to do so—Prime Minister Theresa May has at last unveiled her vision of Brexit, which led her foreign secretary and chief Brexit minister to resign.
Published on 12 July and running at just over 100 pages, the whitepaper is divided into four chapters: economic partnership, security partnership, cross-cutting and other cooperation, and institutional arrangements that will enforce the deal.
The United Kingdom hopes the European Union will back its proposals so that an exit deal can be struck by autumn, ahead of the U.K.’s official Brexit departure on 29 March 2019.
For businesses and compliance professionals, the key chapter relates to forming an EU/U.K. economic partnership. Setting out its stall at long last, the U.K. government wants:
Continued “frictionless” access at the border between the United Kingdom and European Union for goods by setting up a free-trade area, which would avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border and mean that businesses would not need to complete costly customs declarations. It would also enable products to undergo just one set of approvals and authorisations in either market, before being sold in both, and would avoid the prospect of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and Ireland, as well as disruption to manufacturing supply chains.
Reciprocal commitments that would ensure U.K. businesses could carry on competing fairly in EU markets and EU businesses operating in the United Kingdom be able to do the same.
A “common rulebook” for goods (including manufactured goods and agri-food) so that U.K. and EU rules are harmonised to enable frictionless trade.
Participation in those EU agencies that provide authorisations for goods in highly regulated sectors—namely the European Chemicals Agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and the European Medicines Agency. The United Kingdom would contribute toward costs and obey their rules (meaning it would respect the remit of the Court of Justice of the European Union).
The phased introduction of a new “Facilitated Customs Arrangement” that would remove the need for customs checks and controls between the United Kingdom and European Union as if they were a combined customs territory. This would enable the United Kingdom to control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world and ensure businesses paid the right or no tariff, becoming operational in stages as both sides complete the necessary preparations.
The elimination of tariffs, quotas, and routine requirements for rules of origin for goods traded between the United Kingdom and European Union.
New arrangements on services and digital trade (i.e., e-commerce).
New economic and regulatory arrangements for financial services (that will not replicate the EU’s passporting regimes).
To end free movement and provide a new framework that allows the United Kingdom to take greater control of its borders.
A common rulebook for state aid; establishing cooperative arrangements between regulators on competition; and agreeing to maintain high standards in areas such as environmental protection and workers’ rights.
Freedom to negotiate trade treaties with other countries.
The European Union member states and the European Commission will now need to review the proposals, and U.K. Members of Parliament will have a vote on any final Brexit deal agreed with the European Union.