A quick look at the Brexit White Paper

The government White Paper this week charts the course the government intends to take to achieve the second leg of Brexit following the referendum result.  This should be to provide a ‘safe and beneficial exit’.

In effect, the government is not attempting to reach a withdrawal and settlement of the new relationship with the EU within two years after triggering Article 50, but is aiming to reach a settlement of the ‘framework’ within two years and thus leaving all the details for many years in the future.

It seems the government is splitting the Brexit job into two parts.

Job One:   Leaving the EU is being interpreted as negotiating a ‘framework’ within which the detailed negotiations will sit.

Job Two:   Detailed negotiations after the UK formally leaves the EU with a ‘framework’ settled.

So the question is this – can the government negotiate the details after formally leaving the EU with a framework agreement but in which framework the details are that each ‘chapter’ of the interface comes up for negotiation maybe years later?

In a way, the government is agreeing with the basic plan offered by the Leave Alliance during the referendum campaign – that the job is too big and complicated to do in two years.  The Leave Alliance solution was to remain in the EEA for some years, thus parking trade and other issues.  The government’s solution is to agree a ‘framework’ within two years and carry out the detailed negotiations later.  In this way it can argue that the UK has left the EU within two years.

Of course the first problem is then that the EU may well reject the splitting of the negotiations into ‘framework’ and ‘details’ because this is a new concept and because the ‘details’ are to some extent the ‘framework’.

Will the electorate and the Conservative Party accept that the UK will for most purposes still be in the EU after two years and the full withdrawal will take many years?

Also, by proposing to leave the EEA single market the government has added to its negotiating burden as it will have to secure trade agreements with the EFTA countries.

What happens if this course is pursued?  It depends on how the EU reacts.  It may go along with this in order to get the UK out of the formal political structure.  It might also say that the idea of separating the ‘framework’ and the ‘details’ is not realistic and put forward a more radical programme of detachment.

The Leave Alliance proposal would have been more certain, quicker, more attractive to the EU and would have more electoral support in the UK.  It would rest on off-the-shelf proven solutions.  The government’s proposals are the opposite of all these sensible proposals, are far more risky and uncertain and will involve the UK in many EU activities for years to come.

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Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield

Anthony Scholefield is Director of the Futurus Think Tank

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4 comments

  1. Jason BarkerReply

    The government are to propose at the initial Brexit talks another exit route other than the EEA to suit their objective of :

    “Ensuring free trade with European markets – We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.”

    How will this all unfold? Can we take show that they want to be in the driving seat with conviction and with strategic alternatives in place such as the EEA route. Other separate teams could be in the unknown plans to cover both other EU Brexit areas and pre-trade talks with countries outside the European Union. Who knows, we may see a large Amada forward looking battle team unfolding.

  2. Ken WorthyReply

    What evidence does Anthony Scholefield have for his statement “the government is not attempting to reach a withdrawal and settlement of the new relationship with the EU within two years after triggering Article 50, but is aiming to reach a settlement of the ‘framework’ within two years and thus leaving all the details for many years in the future.”? There is no mention of a “framework” in the White Paper. Chapter 12 deals with implementation arrangements, not the negotiation of “all the details”. If he wants to interpret the White paper in a way that differs totally from the interpretation of the vast majority of commentators and ministers, surely he should provide his analysis of the text which justifies this?

    • John Petley
      John PetleyReply

      Here is Anthony’s reply:-

      ‘I notice that David Davis’ covering letter for the White Paper contained a familiar error and therefore devalued the stature of the White paper,I . The error was to talk about the EU and the UK’s’ shared commitment to NATO’. Look,this is a key government document and you cannot get the facts wrong such as that quite a few EU countries are not in NATO.

      The whole content of chapter 12.2 makes it clear that there is not going to be a signed detailed agreement on the divorce and the new trade arrangements but that the government is aiming for and expects to reach- wrongly but never mind -‘an agreement on our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has been concluded’ Then there is talk about’ phased implementation’ Well either there is agreed a detailed agreement or there is not. There is not. A non-detailed agreement is useless for implementation.

      Implementation is an entirely different matter.It is not to do with the agreement but the timetable etc where the agreement gets implemented.

      Let us be clear ,there needs to be a forensic detailed agreement on the divorce and the future relationship.as nothing other than that can be ‘implemented’ You cannot implement some grandiose Heads of Proposals since these matters in the divorce and future relationship.are matters of detail.’

  3. Adrian WhiteReply

    The Campaign for an Independent Britain was formed in 1969 to oppose joining the European Common Market; yet some members seem to wish Great Britain to stay in the European Economic Area (which is a European common market). Are not the arguments for staying in the European Economic Area in 2019 similar to those for joining the European Common Market in 1969?

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