Revealed: Five black holes in the Government's Brexit White Paper

February 3, 2017 6:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

The Liberal Democrats have identified five black holes in the Government's Brexit White Paper.

The paper fails to address key questions facing Britain after Brexit including on common trading standards with Europe, key crime-fighting measures and the right of UK citizens to live and work on the continent.

It also fails to propose any solutions to the issue of how to maintain the current soft border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary Tom Brake said: "This is not a White Paper, it's a whitewash. The government has completely failed to answer key questions about Britain's future relationship with Europe.

"If this is the paper Labour sold their votes for, they've been short-changed.

"From the ability of businesses to trade freely to the right of future generations to live and work abroad, instead of concrete proposals we see yet more vague platitudes.

"This is not good enough. The British people deserve to know more about what this government will negotiate on their behalf and they deserve to have the final say on the deal."

1. Single Market

The paper states it will aim to ensure the current "common frameworks" that enable UK businesses to trade freely with the EU will continue after Brexit. But the only way to do that is to adopt all new EU regulations as well as those which already exist, and to have a way of enforcing the rules on both sides on a continuing basis. That's what the EU Court of Justice currently does. What, if anything, is going to replace the ECJ and how will this be reconciled with Theresa May's vow to end the ECJ's influence in the UK?

2. Customs Union

The paper calls for a new customs arrangement with the EU that allows the UK to sign trade deals with other countries while keeping trade between the UK and the EU as "frictionless" as possible. This is at odds with Trade Minister Lord Price telling the German newspaper Die Welt that "there will be no cherry-picking" on the Customs Union.

3. Cooperation against crime

The paper fails to address how the UK will keep vital cooperation against crime, including the European Arrest Warrant and access to crime databases, which require accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The paper also fails to confirm whether the UK will seek to remain part of Europol, the EU's crimefighting agency.

4. Free movement and Erasmus

There is no mention in the paper of safeguarding the rights of Britons to live and travel on the continent post-Brexit. It also fails to make any mention of maintaining the Erasmus student exchange scheme that has benefitted over 200,000 UK students since it was set up.

5. Northern Ireland border

The paper fails to address how the government will keep the soft border in place between Northern Ireland and Ireland after Brexit. No concrete solution is proposed, instead the government says it will aim to "minimise frictions and administrative burdens," implying there could be a return to checks at the border.