UK Publishes White Paper Outlining the Roadmap for Brexit

By Melissa Miller Proctor

This week, the United Kingdom (UK) published an official white paper setting out its Brexit plan, which establishes the key principles that will guide the government in its departure from the European Union (EU). This document outlines the 12 key principles that will govern the EU departure process. 

Those principles can be summarized as follows:

1. Providing legal certainty: The UK will introduce a bill to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and convert the body of existing EU law into UK domestic law. The same rules and laws that apply now will continue to apply after the UK’s exit until Parliament has an opportunity to decide which elements of the law to keep, amend, or repeal. Domestic legislation will also be brought into conformity with the agreement that the UK will ultimate enter with the EU. 

2. Taking control of UK laws: Leaving the EU will mean that UK laws will be made in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast, and the Court of Justice of the European Union will no longer have jurisdiction in the UK. 

3. Strengthening the union: The UK is working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland to secure and protect their specific interests.

4. Protecting historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the common travel area: The UK seeks to continue a seamless and frictionless border with Northern Ireland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands.

5. Controlling immigration: The UK will remain an open and tolerant country, and one that recognizes the contribution that immigrants play in society; however, in recent decades the UK has seen record levels of long term net migration in the UK. The sheer volume has given rise to public concern about pressure on public services and wages for people on the lowest incomes. The government will therefore design an immigration system to ensure that it is able to control the numbers of people who come to the UK from the EU. The EU’s Free Movement Directive will no longer apply and the migration of EU nationals will be subject to UK law. 

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU: While the UK is a member of the EU, the rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU remain unchanged. As provided for in both the EU Free Movement Directive and in UK law, persons who have lived continuously and lawfully in a country for at least five years automatically have a permanent right to reside there. The UK will work closely with the EU partners to reach a reciprocal deal on securing the rights of EU and UK nationals residing in their respective territories. 

7. Protecting workers’ rights: As the body of EU law is converted into UK legislation, the government will ensure the continued protection of workers’ rights. The government has stated that it is committed not only to safeguard the rights of workers as set forth in European legislation, but to enhance them. 

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets: Although the government will seek the freest and most frictionless trade possible in goods and services between the UK and the EU, the UK will not seek membership in the current Single Market. Rather, the UK will pursue a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement. The precise form of these new agreements will be the subject of negotiation. 

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries: By leaving the EU, the UK will seek free trade agreements with countries around the world both bilaterally as well as in multilateral arrangements.

10. Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation: The UK will seek to continue to collaborate with its European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism: The UK will continue to work with the EU to preserve UK and European security (including cyber security), and to fight terrorism and uphold justice across Europe. 

12. Delivering a smooth and orderly exit from the EU: As noted above, the UK will formally trigger the process of leaving the EU by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union no later than the end of March 2017. As set out in Article 50, the Treaties of the EU will cease to apply to the UK when the withdrawal agreement enters into force, or failing that, two years from the day that the UK submits its notification. The UK intends to reach an agreement about its future partnership with the EU by the time the two-year Article 50 process has concluded. Following that, a phased process of implementation, in which the UK, the EU institutions and Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist, will be negotiated and concluded to give businesses sufficient time to plan and prepare. 

In addition, a Brexit Bill was introduced in Parliament last week after the Supreme Court concluded that a vote must take place before the UK can give formal notice under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty of its exit from the European Union. The Court rejected the government’s argument that Prime Minister Teresa May had sufficient authority to commence the formal Brexit process without first consulting Parliament. The Brexit Bill is expected to move to the committee stage in the Commons sometime next week. Prime Minister May plans to issue the departure notification to the EU under Article 50 in March, which will trigger the start of formal negotiations with the EU member states. The negotiations are expected to last up to two years, and the UK could effectively leave the EU in 2019. 

To view the official Brexit white paper, click here