Brexit White Paper: Commercial Aspects

Brexit White Paper: Commercial Aspects

With the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union gathering momentum, the Government has published a White Paper Report setting out plans in respect of the negotiations.

Briefly, the Government is aiming to achieve a “comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement” between the UK and the EU member states, and to ensure “a smooth, mutually beneficial exit”.

Triggering Article 50

Earlier this month, MPs overwhelmingly approved a bill to enable Prime Minister, Theresa May, to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, thus marking a pivotal and historical moment in the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.

The Prime Minister has confirmed that Article 50 will be invoked by the end of March 2017, which will mark the start of the formal negotiation period (of two years) to carve out the UK’s exit from the EU.  While uncertainty still remains over the new relationship that will arise between the UK and EU, the Government has pressed ahead by publishing a White Paper Report setting out their plans for the upcoming negotiations.

White Paper Report

The plans are presented in a series of bullet points that offer little more than a summary of the Government’s aspirations. However, the white paper does reiterate that the Government is looking to forge a new relationship of collaboration and partnership with the EU, and to set out a more global reach for the UK (particularly focused on establishing profitable trade links for goods and services).

The white paper also goes on at length, setting out that the European Communities Act will be repealed, that there will be an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, that the UK’s relationship with Ireland will remain as strong as ever, and discusses how immigration controls might be implemented effectively.

Negotiation aims on trade:

The white paper sets out the Government’s aims for the negotiations in respect of trade in goods and services, some of these are as follows:

  • To enable UK companies to have the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European market;
  • To implement a new customs agreement with the EU, which will help to support the aim of trade of goods which can be as ‘frictionless’ as possible;
  • To ensure the freest possible trade in services between the UK and EU member states;
  • To enhance employment law and rights. UK employment law already goes considerably further than EU legislation, but the Government aims to protect and enhance workers’ rights to a greater degree, with an independent review of employment practices already underway; and
  • To secure new trade arrangements with countries across the world, with ambitions that these may be tariff-free.

In short, the white paper does provide an indication of the Government’s negotiating aims, but it does not set out a clearer understanding of what the likely post-Brexit landscape for trade and UK businesses will be.

In the foreword to the white paper, the Prime Minister reports that “Business isn’t calling to reverse the [referendum] result, but planning to make a success of it”. However, whether the Government’s aspirations of a free trade deal with the EU is achievable is sure to be revealed as the negotiations commence.

While the only certainty in respect of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is uncertainty, there are a number of steps that your business can take to prepare. If you would like to discuss the impact on your business, please contact Colin Smith on 01494 478605 or