The Government published its White Paper on future relations between the UK and the EU on 12 July. It envisages a 'common rulebook' to facilitate 'frictionless' trade, and among other things, UK cooperation in security matters, a commitment to maintain high environmental, data and consumer protection standards, UK participation in some EU agencies and solutions to the Irish border issues - all underpinned by a new governance structure that will pay "due regard" to the EU Court. Would the White Paper proposals work and do they respect both UK sovereignty and the indivisibility of the EU Single Market? David Davis's 'alternative' white paper proposes a somewhat different future relationship. This paper looks at proposals in both documents.
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The White Paper
The Government published a White Paper on The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union (Cm 9593) on 12 July 2018. On 23 July the Government published a summary of the White Paper in the form of slides on The Future UK-EU Relationship.
The White Paper is divided into four chapters, setting out:
- An Economic partnership based on ‘bilateral autonomy’; includes an independent trade policy, trade in goods, services and investment, the digital sector, future mobility, competition, the environment, transport and energy; new arrangements for services, financial services and the digital sector; a Facilitated Customs Arrangement; no hard Irish border;
- A Security partnership: operational capabilities on internal security are maintained, but the UK has an independent foreign policy, sometimes working with the EU; cooperation or participation in law enforcement and criminal justice, data exchange, cyber security, extradition, counter-terrorism, sanctions, space, asylum and illegal immigration;
- Cross-cutting and other cooperation: UK participation in several EU agencies, continued participation or cooperation in science and innovation, data protection, culture and education, and fishing opportunities;
- Institutional arrangements: an EU-UK Association Agreement and other separate agreements; a new governing body of UK and EU officials and a Joint Committee; UK participation in EU agencies, making a financial contribution to the EU budget; UK respect for remit of the CJEU and a role for the UK Parliament in scrutinising rules made under the agreements.
The “commmon rulebook”
Underpinning the economic partnership is the idea of the ‘common rulebook’, which is the standards and regulations followed by all EU Member States and non-EU EEA States and facilitates the functioning of the Single Market in goods and services. These harmonised standards cover a vast range of areas, including, for example, chemicals, emissions, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, automotive, health, safety, food safety, and environmental protection. In the White Paper the common rule book also includes state aid and competition but not rules on the environment, employment and taxation.
Reaction to the White Paper
The EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier welcomed the long-awaited UK Government position paper and said “several elements” of it were “very useful”. But he was not sure whether the plans for a “common rulebook” for goods and agri-foods were practical and he thought they might undermine the integrity of the EU Single Market.
Reactions from the governments of Scotland and Wales were mixed. While the Scottish Government commented that the proposals offered “little reassurance” for those worried about the Scottish economy, the Welsh Government gave the White Paper a cautious welcome.
The ‘alternative’ white paper
An ‘alternative white paper’ drawn up by the Department for Exiting the EU was published in 24 separate extracts on the Conservative Home website in July. This paper calls for “a balanced, ambitious and wide-ranging economic partnership with the EU” which recognises the strength of the existing UK-EU trading relationship and the existing high level of integration between the UK and EU economies. This would involve largely frictionless trade, avoiding tariffs, and the establishment of new customs arrangements to minimise frictions at the border. The partnership would include services and investment and an “ambitious agreement on financial services that provides for market access in the most important areas of cross-border financial services trade.”