Brexit: White Paper 12 July 2018 and Further Developments

The EU welcomed the fact that there were now some actual proposals on paper to discuss but was muted in its comments reserving specifics until all 27 remaining countries could scrutinise and discuss the paper to form a joint response. Brexit observers could almost see the EU collective wondering how long the White Paper proposals would remain intact given the political turmoil being played out on the UK domestic scene.

Nobody had too long to wait.

By yesterday 16th July 2018, just four days after its publication the White Paper has already been substantially amended in the UK Parliament. Section 1.2.1 Facilitated Customs Arrangement has been changed. The White paper proposed that the UK apply the EU’s tariffs and trade policy for the EU, whilst applying its own tariffs and trade policy for goods whose end destination was the UK. Possibly realising that this was an ask too far the White Paper specifically stated:

“However, the UK is not proposing that the EU applies the UK’s tariffs and trade policy at its border for goods intended for the UK.”

Yesterday’s amendment demands that the EU do exactly that for and on behalf of the UK.

Even the initial proposal would have meant the EU giving substantial concessions and trust to what will become a third country post Brexit but there are additional problems with the amendment.

  • It is unlikely that the EU will agree to implement an unwieldly and costly option in order to facilitate the UK’s wishes.
  • The White Paper concedes at paragraph 20 that there will be a need to continue to explore options to use future advances in technology to streamline the process. Hardly a reassuring message to send to a prospective partner, we want you to do this for us as well but the mechanisms for implementing it are not actually developed yet.
  • The White paper also states at paragraph 21

“There will need to be a phased approach to implementation of this model, which the UK and the EU will need to agree through discussions on the future economic partnership.”

Unfortunately, it does not detail how it is envisaged this will work or what will happen in the interim period. This problem will be multiplied by 27 now this has been amended. Further amendments are due to be debated today (17th July). Excitement all around.

Meanwhile on 16th and 17th July 2018 the EU Select Committee is in Brussels to continue its own scrutiny of the Brexit negotiations. It will be interesting to hear its feedback. The Committee will have a private meeting with Michel Barnier, to discuss amongst other things, the progress made in the Brexit negotiations so far, the UK White Paper of 12th July 2018 and as usual the proposal for a backstop for the Ireland/ Northern Ireland border. A verbatim transcript is to be published on the Committee website in the coming days.


Read here the full text of the White Paper, published on 12th July 2018 by the UK Government.

19th July 2018

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