UK says ‘national consensus’ will guide Brexit
The British government published its strategy for leaving the EU yesterday, after Parliament gave its permission to start exit negotiations. Will it deliver the Brexit people voted for?
The UK, says the BBC’s political editor, is ‘past the point of no return’. On Wednesday night, MPs gave the government permission to make its most momentous decision for a generation: giving notice of withdrawal from the EU.
Now comes the detailed process of departure negotiations. Yesterday the government published a white paper — a report setting out the details of its Brexit policy, including 12 key principles to guide it.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, said the strategy would fulfil ‘the democratic will of the people of the UK’, by putting the result of June’s referendum into action.
The government’s points include ‘taking control of our own laws’ and ‘controlling immigration’. Polls suggest these were the most significant reasons why people voted Leave. The UK will seek ‘ambitious’ trade deals, which many Leavers see as a major advantage of Brexit.
Ministers also addressed some crucial concerns of the pro-EU side. The government wants to secure EU nationals’ rights to remain in the UK, and vice-versa, ‘as early as we can’. It will aim to co-operate with the EU on crime and terrorism; protect science and innovation; and secure ‘a deal that works for the entire UK’.
Davis said the government would seek to build ‘a national consensus wherever possible’ and ‘a more open, outward-looking, confident and fairer UK, which works for all’.
But is this realistic? Critics said the paper did not reflect the public’s wishes. Pressure group Vote Leave Watch tweeted: ‘White paper doesn’t include a word about the £350m a week for our NHS’. Nick Clegg, the former Liberal Democrat leader, angrily accused the government of deliberately alienating its EU partners.
Others criticised the drive to leave EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice. Some cast doubt on the priority given to immigration controls. Rachael Maskell, a Labour MP, said leaving the single market — a requirement for stricter control of immigration — was ‘not on the ballot paper’.
‘Nobody voted for a Theresa May Brexit,’ she added.
Out and about
She is right, say Europhiles. The government’s wafer-thin plans are alarming. Many of the 48% who voted Remain are shocked to see Britain’s ties with Europe severed so thoroughly. This reckless strategy will make Britain poorer and meaner. It is not what the public, or even the 52% who voted Leave, called for.
Excessive pessimism, retort Brexiters. This plan will not close the UK off from Europe. It will give the British people what they want: departure from a political union, the return of parliamentary sovereignty to Westminster and greater control over their own affairs. And it will take into account the concerns of those who voted Remain.
- Do you prefer taking control of your affairs or working with others?
- Will the government give Britain the Brexit it voted for?
- Choose five words or phrases in this article that you would like to know more about. If you can, do some research on one of them; explain what you found out to your class.
- Write a one-page letter on behalf of the UK government, explaining the key details of its negotiating position to the president of the EU council, Donald Tusk.
Some People Say...
“Nothing is scarier than the tyranny of the majority.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- This all sounds very technical — will it really change people’s lives?
- Brexit is a very complex process. But the detail behind it will have an important impact on people across the UK. For example, it could change the amount or nature of business being done in the UK. That could change the job opportunities available when you are older. Controls on migration could mean fewer people moving between countries. You may worry that this restricts opportunity for you, or people you care about — or you may be relieved that the pace of change will slow down.
- But I’m not British.
- Brexit is a major international story. Politicians who think it is successful may try to replicate its lessons — while those who see it as a failure will try to learn from them. So your country’s policies could also change.
- Parliament voted to allow the government to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty — and tell the EU that the UK is leaving.
- On June 23rd 2016, 52% of voters chose to leave the EU; 48% voted to remain in it.
- According to a poll by Lord Ashcroft, 49% of Leave voters said their main motive was ‘the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’; 33% cited ‘the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders’.
- In England and Wales 53% voted Leave; 62% in Scotland and 56% in Northern Ireland voted Remain.
- Vote Leave Watch
- A group ‘dedicated to holding the Vote Leave campaign and their allies to account’.
- Leave campaigners said leaving would mean the UK no longer paid into the EU budget, so it could fund the NHS more. The idea was printed on the side of the official campaign’s bus. The £350m figure has been fiercely contested.
- Clegg said he had heard ‘on very good authority’ that the government had spurned an offer of an emergency brake on migration in exchange for a less disruptive Brexit.