Britain publishes Brexit blueprint for Parliament

White Paper confirms Britain's exit from EU's single market to control immigration

LONDON • The British government has presented its Brexit strategy to Parliament, publishing 12 objectives that it believes will secure "a new, positive and constructive partnership" with the European Union.

Brexit Minister David Davis unveiled the White Paper yesterday to the House of Commons, a day after MPs there approved the first stage of a Bill empowering Prime Minister Theresa May to start pulling Britain out of the EU.

Mrs May insisted that the government did "not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success" in the foreword to the paper, entitled "The United Kingdom's exit from and new partnership with the European Union".

She called on both sides of the debate to move on from the bitter referendum campaign and aftermath of the shock June 23 vote.

"After all the division and discord, the country is coming together," she said. "The referendum was divisive at times. And those divisions have taken time to heal.

MOVING ON FROM REFERENDUM

The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together.

PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY

"The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the outcome. And the country comes together."

The document confirmed that Britain would be leaving the EU's single market in order to control immigration, but Mr Davis said the government would seek a "bold and ambitious free trade agreement" and "a new positive and constructive partnership".

The 77-page paper said the free trade agreement "may take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when the UK and the remaining member states have adhered to the same rules for so many years".

"Such an arrangement would be on a fully reciprocal basis and in our mutual interests," said the document. It added that the time needed to phase in any new arrangements on issues such as immigration controls and Customs systems after leaving the EU may differ.

"We will design our immigration system to ensure that we are able to control the numbers of people who come here from the EU," said the paper.

"In future, therefore, the Free Movement Directive will no longer apply and the migration of EU nationals will be subject to UK law."

Mr Keir Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, criticised the government for releasing the paper minutes before the debate in Parliament, and called on Mr Davis to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in Britain.

Mr Davis said Britain would not be "throwing any people out" as a result of Brexit, but that he needed similar assurances from EU leaders over the fate of British residents on the continent.

On Wednesday, MPs approved a Bill that would allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty and formally begin two years of exit negotiations, by a margin of 498 to 114.

It was the first Brexit-related vote in the House of Commons, coming after more than 17 hours of debate, with a second and final vote in the Lower House set for next week before expected approval by the House of Lords next month.

Former Labour minister Peter Hain tweeted that "I and others will vote against Bill" when it goes to the Upper Chamber later this month "to block Mrs May's right-wing Brexit nightmare for Britain".

"The battle's only just started," said former chancellor of the exchequer Kenneth Clarke, who said he had opposed the Bill.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline 'Britain publishes Brexit blueprint for Parliament'. Print Edition | Subscribe