So in February 2017, UKGov published its white paper, “The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union.” Today, I have skim-read it.
As with all white papers, it is publication from government to set out ideas, policies, proposals and all sorts. It is not binding. It comprises 77 pages.
Ultimately, the white paper sets out more detail headlined by the Prime Minister’s speech of 17Jan2017.
Accordingly, I am not terribly impressed with the white paper, or UKGovt’s lack-of-thought process behind it.
The white paper probably reflects the best brains that UKGovt can find on the subject. It’s just that the UKGov’s best brains are frankly no good.
The root cause of the white paper’s problem is its contradiction of objectives and methods. They don’t stack up.
Para 12.2 says:
“It is, however, in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU. Instead, we want to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which the UK, the EU institutions and Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us, will be in our mutual interest.”
But then, para 1.1:
“To provide legal certainty over our exit from the EU, we will introduce the Great Repeal Bill to remove the European Communities Act 1972 from the statute book and convert the ‘acquis’ – the body of existing EU law – into domestic law.”
Oops. Converting the ‘acquis’ into domestic law is a 40-year job, not a single act of parliament that photocopies somebody else’s regulation onto our statute book. Where European regulations require membership of the Union to be enforceable, then the regulations cannot be enforced in a country outside the Union. So the photocopied regulation won’t work, and, in parallel with this, the country outside the Union will no longer comply with Union regulations. What impact this has on trade is documented by others elsewhere. The same is true for any entitlement to use compliance services offered by the Union: typically, membership of the Union is a condition-precedent.
Para 1.1 continues:
“This means that, wherever practical and appropriate, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after we leave the EU as they did before.”
Oh no they won’t!
On this fundamental error, paras 1.2-1.5 are no longer worth reading. Consequential drivel is still drivel.
Compounding this problem is chapter 8. The introductory paragraph includes this sentence:
“We will not be seeking membership of the Single Market, but will pursue instead a new strategic partnership with the EU, including an ambitious and comprehensive Free Trade Agreement and a new customs agreement.”
Given the objective of para 12.2, the least worst option to achieve objectives set out in paras 8.1-3 and 12.2 would be for UKGovt to apply for membership of EFTA (subject to EFTA’s permission), so as to retain access to the European Economic Area and thus automatically comply with a tonne of regulation to whose compliance permits trade.
However, given a stated intention not to remain a member of the Single Market, para 8.3 includes this sentence:
“That agreement may take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas as 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.”
So it’s quite clear that UKGovt likely doesn’t understand the basics of how the EU, EFTA and the EEA work.
And, just to check, are we to assume that UKGovt wants a brand new free-trade and customs agreement with the European Union to be concluded within the two-year period of the Article 50 notice (as implied by para 12.2)?
So instead of learning quickly how the Union (let alone international governance) works, UKGovt is going to re-invent the triangular wheel, and expects the European Union to do likewise.
Ladies and gentlemen, I offer this white paper as an example of the ‘arrogance of ignorance’.
As opening pre-negotiating statements go, it’s a lousy piece of work. There will be European leaders feeling that de Gaulle was right all along…
“Immigration” has been one of the misleading undertones of the referendum campaign. The white paper’s chapter 5 sets out how UKGovt intends to control immigration and para 5.3 gets very, very close to grasping what I perceive are the people’s concerns. But not close enough.
I do wonder at what point the majority of government departments going to realise that the "immigration issue" boils down to a disdain for queue-jumping? i.e. the perception that public services appear to give preferential treatment to new arrivals over the heads of existing taxpaying residents (including immigrants of less than two years UK residence) still waiting in the queue for public services ostensibly because of their newness (and not their objective needs).
- the perception that school place allocation is biased;
- or the perception that the NHS has too oft chosen not to recover costs from "healthcare tourists" (which apparently might be racial discrimination?);
- or the perception that the welfare state is so generous that it is a magnet to "benefit tourists" (which surprised even an immigrant, Milena Czaplinska, quoted by the BBC, who had no idea the English welfare state was so easy for claimants to scam until she got here);
- or the perception that the welfare state still chooses not to discriminate between the "deserving" and "undeserving" poor;
- or the perception that foreign labour is cheaper because it's happy to live in squalor (see section "congestion problem" in this article from the BBC, which understates the case somewhat; the Daily Mail recorded it more vividly, "You try raising a family on £6.20 an hour, paying a mortgage and living next door to a house with ten young guys coming and going day and night.").