UK un­veils Brexit pol­icy blue­print

The Herald (South Africa) - - World - El­iz­a­beth Piper and An­drew MacAskill

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May pub­lished her blue­print for re­la­tions with the Euro­pean Union af­ter Brexit on Thurs­day, putting at its core a plan for a free trade area for goods that has an­gered many in her Con­ser­va­tive Party.

May said her new pro­posal for Brexit de­liv­ered what Bri­tons had voted for, re­spond­ing to US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who said he was not sure whether the dif­fer­ent route May was tak­ing ful­filled the wishes of the peo­ple.

In a long-awaited white paper pol­icy doc­u­ment, her gov­ern­ment said its ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion had “evolved” but that it was stick­ing to its prin­ci­ples for Brexit, the big­gest shift in Britain’s for­eign and trad­ing pol­icy in decades.

The 98-page doc­u­ment, which caused the res­ig­na­tions of two of her top min­is­ters ear­lier this week, sug­gests the gov­ern­ment is hop­ing to re­tain close ties with the bloc, par­tic­i­pat­ing in its agen­cies for chem­i­cals, avi­a­tion and medicines.

There was one ma­jor shift – for Britain’s huge fi­nan­cial ser­vices sec­tor, with the gov­ern­ment aban­don­ing plans for close trad­ing ties favoured by the City of Lon­don in favour of a deal that of­fers flex­i­bil­ity but more lim­ited mar­ket ac­cess.

“Leav­ing the Euro­pean Union in­volves chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity. We need to rise to the chal­lenge and grasp the op­por­tu­ni­ties,” Brexit min­is­ter Do­minic Raab, who was ap­pointed to his po­si­tion on Mon­day, wrote in the fore­word of the doc­u­ment.

“This is the right ap­proach – for both the UK and for the EU. The white paper sets out in de­tail how it would work.”

With less than nine months be­fore Britain is due to leave the bloc, May has been un­der pres­sure from busi­nesses, EU of­fi­cials and her own law­mak­ers to spell out her ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion to un­block the all-but-stalled Brexit talks.

She thrashed out an agree­ment at her Che­quers coun­try res­i­dence on Fri­day last week, but that was quickly un­der­mined when two of her lead­ing min­is­ters and Brexit cam­paign­ers quit their jobs in protest at her plan to keep close trade ties with the EU.

Her team hopes the pub­li­ca­tion of the white paper will ease con­cerns among many Brexit sup­port­ers af­ter the res­ig­na­tions at the week­end of for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son and for­mer Brexit ne­go­tia­tor David Davis.

But the doc­u­ment, which spells out in de­tail where Britain hopes to main­tain ties, might add fuel to a sim­mer­ing re­bel­lion within the Con­ser­va­tive Party.

It is also not clear whether the EU will ac­cept the pro­pos­als. French Prime Min­is­ter Edouard Philippe said the worst sce­nario of Britain crash­ing out of the bloc with­out a deal was still a pos­si­bil­ity.

The white paper con­firms May’s de­sire for a busi­ness­friendly Brexit, try­ing to pro­tect man­u­fac­tur­ers with com­plex sup­ply chains across the EU which have warned a clean break would have cost Bri­tish jobs.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that there will be more bar­ri­ers to Britain’s ac­cess to the EU mar­ket than is the case to­day, the white paper goes on to de­tail a plan for a fa­cil­i­tated cus­toms ar­range­ment with the EU, one which would mean Britain would act as if it were in a com­bined cus­toms ter­ri­tory.

It also de­tails Britain’s de­sire to par­tic­i­pate in EU agen­cies that pro­vide au­tho­ri­sa­tion for goods – the Euro­pean Chem­i­cals Agency, the Avi­a­tion Safety Agency and the Euro­pean Medicines Agency.

‘Leav­ing the Euro­pean Union in­volves chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity’ Do­minic Raab UK BREXIT MIN­IS­TER

Pic­ture: JOHN PHILLIPS/GETTY IM­AGES

DO­MINIC RAAB

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