Thursday 2 February 2017 2:13 pm

Six things we learned from the Brexit white paper

Theresa May has finally answered the calls of MPs and published a Brexit white paper, today releasing a 77-page document detailing her plan to quit the EU.

May previously laid out much of the detail in her landmark address at Lancaster House last month, but what can we glean from all the extra information released today?

1. May still wants to cooperate on regulation of financial services

The topic of passporting for City firms is mentioned just once in the white paper released today, with little indication of where the government thinks it will end up on market access for financial services.

However, it says the UK should collaborate with the rest of Europe to maintain financial stability and strengthen collective oversight. The white paper suggests the UK is keen to stay on a similar regulatory footing to the EU in order to keep strong financial ties between the City and the continent.

"As the UK leaves the EU, we will seek to establish strong cooperative oversight arrangements with the EU and will continue to support and implement international standards to continue to safely serve the UK, European and global economy," the paper states.

"We will be aiming for the freest possible trade in financial services between the UK and EU member states."

2. Some "elements" of Single Market membership are still on the table

May said in her Lancaster House speech that some parts of Single Market membership which currently work well could be retained, and the white paper doubles down on this.

Despite the lack of references to passporting directly – although financial services firms were mentioned at Lancaster house – today's document clearly makes reference to markets in which European regulation means firms are already on the same page.

"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," the white paper states.

"Such an arrangement would be on a fully reciprocal basis and in our mutual interests."

3. Different sectors will get different transitional arrangements

The government has been keen to stress it will seek  a "phased" implementation period for Brexit, with businesses given time to adjust to any new rules in the aftermath of the divorce from the EU.

Today's white paper cites immigration controls, customs rules, regulatory frameworks and cross-border collaboration on justice as examples where transition periods will apply.

There's no detail yet on how long a transition period may be – and Brexit secretary David Davis has previously suggested it could be years. This document suggests that will likely remain a matter of negotiation.

"For each issue, the time we need to phase in the new arrangements may differ; some might be introduced very quickly, some might take longer," the white paper states.

But it adds: "The UK will not, however, seek some form of unlimited transitional status. That would not be good for the UK and nor would it be good for the EU."

4. Downing Street is officially blaming other countries for failing to reach a deal on EU nationals in the UK

This has been hinted at before, but the white paper makes it clear Downing Street has tried, and failed, to secure a deal protecting the rights of both UK nationals in Europe and Europeans in this country.

Such a deal remains "the right and fair thing to do", today's document states, and it is clear the Prime Minister wants to blame others for the failure to sorted this. 

"The government would have liked to resolve this issue ahead of the formal negotiations. And although many EU Member States favour such an agreement, this has not proven possible," the white paper states.

"The UK remains ready to give people the certainty they want and reach a reciprocal deal with our European partners at the earliest opportunity."

5. The UK really doesn't want to hurt the EU

Perhaps because President Donald Trump has been more equivocal on the future of the European Union, both Davis and the white paper itself stress the UK's desire to see the EU succeed.

This had previously been stressed by May, but it is notable how much weight the government has given to this message, with Davis noting today the UK will "approach the negotiation to come in a spirit of goodwill and [work] to an outcome in our mutual benefit".

6. There are more white papers to come…

Just in case you still feel short of information on Brexit, the government has confirmed it will bring out a new white paper on the Great Repeal Bill, which transposes EU regulation into British law.

Davis confirmed the document will be published while he was at the despatch box earlier today, although it remains uncertain when this will actually be published.

The Great Repeal Bill is expected to be formally introduced in the Queen's Speech this year.

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