British publish Brexit paper; Theresa May hails plan as ‘principled and pragmatic’

Prime Minister Theresa May has unveiled her long-awaited framework for Britain’s future relations with the EU in a White Paper which she said would deliver a “principled and practical Brexit”.

The 98-page document – which prompted the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis from her Cabinet – contains much to enrage Eurosceptic members of her own party.

It envisages the UK entering an Association Agreement with the EU, accepting a “common rulebook” on trade in goods and continued payments for participation in shared agencies and programmes.

And it is unclear whether it will win favour in Brussels, with resistance likely over Mrs May’s proposal for a “facilitated customs arrangement” at the border and her rejection of the EU’s “equivalence” system for financial services.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Theresa May secured Cabinet approval for her future framework plan at Chequers last week (PA)</figcaption>
Theresa May secured Cabinet approval for her future framework plan at Chequers last week (PA)

The White Paper states that the future framework for the post-Brexit relationship should be settled at the same time as the separate deal on the UK’s withdrawal.

It calls for negotiations to proceed “at pace” with the aim or reaching substantive agreement later this year.

Key elements of Mrs May’s proposals include:

– A formal institutional framework bringing leaders and ministers from the UK and EU together in a governing body with regular summits;

– A “robust” independent panel to arbitrate on disputes, so that neither side’s courts have the final say;

– A free trade area in goods;

– New arrangements for services, giving each side the freedom to set their own rules;

– An end to free movement, with new “mobility” rules allowing visa-free travel for tourism and temporary work and permitting companies to move talented staff between countries;

– Continued security co-operation, participation in Europol and a range of EU agencies.

New Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab was due to speak with chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Thursday and will meet him in Brussels next week to discuss the way forward.

Mr Raab described the PM’s Brexit blueprint as “bold, ambitious but also pragmatic”.

And in a direct challenge to Tory Brexiteers who have threatened parliamentary “guerilla warfare” to try to block the plan, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “For those that are either criticising or carping or whatever else, they need to come back with credible alternatives.”

But Mr Barnier has warned that the proposals must conform to EU rules and not create extra costs as he told US business leaders to prepare for a no-deal scenario.

The EU negotiator said he would examine Mrs May proposals to see whether they were “workable and realistic”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Dominic Raab was unveiling the Brexit blueprint on Thursday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)</figcaption>
Dominic Raab was unveiling the Brexit blueprint on Thursday (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Brussels needed to recognise the importance of reaching an agreement that worked for both sides.

“What we say to the European Union is we’re not the only ones who can’t do the cherry-picking. If they want a deep and special partnership with Britain going forward, then we have to look at our relationship as a whole,” he said.

“We are saying that we will defend Europe unconditionally – that is the big commitment that Theresa May has made. We need to find a way forward that works for both sides.

Mrs May wrote in the Sun that the plan was the only one which “truly respects the will of the British people”.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said the proposals must be workable (Niall Carson/PA)</figcaption>
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said the proposals must be workable (Niall Carson/PA)

Meanwhile, Tory MP Maria Caulfield, who resigned as a party vice chairman in protest at Mrs May’s withdrawal stance, said Brexiteers were being held in contempt by a “small cabal” in Downing Street.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, she said Mrs May’s plan was “catastrophically bad” and a “disaster for the Conservative Party”.

Unrest among Brexiteers over the plan means the PM may have to rely on support from outside her party to push it through parliament.

Opposition MPs and peers were briefed last week on the agreement struck at Chequers by Mrs May’s deputy, David Lidington.

But Yvette Cooper said Labour was unlikely to support the blueprint “as it stands”.

- Press Association

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