Government’s Brexit plan ‘unviable’ and ‘lacks clarity’

13 Jul 18

A Labour peer has branded the government’s Brexit plan “totally unviable” while council leaders have said it lacks detail.

Lord Adonis told PF today that the much-anticipated white paper is “totally unviable and un-negotiable as a policy”.

The government released its Brexit white paper on the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union yesterday.

Prime minister Theresa May said the plan would allow the UK to “take back control of our money, laws and borders” but also said she wanted to preserve a “close friendship and strong partnership” with Europe. This would require “pragmatism and compromise from both sides”.

The former transport secretary Adonis criticised the plan, which was agreed by cabinet ministers last week at Chequers, and claimed that it “cherry picks from within the existing Customs Union and the single market” despite the EU having made it clear that this is not possible.

The UK government is proposing to leave the single market and Customs Union but establish a new free trade area for goods that would “protect the uniquely integrated supply chains”.

The deal would end the free movement of EU citizens to the UK but a new framework would be drawn up “enabling UK and EU citizens to continue to travel to each other’s countries ... in line with the arrangements that the UK might want to offer to other close trading partners in the future”.

Adonis added that following the resignation of high-profile Brexiteers like David Davis and Boris Johnson, May “lacks the political authority to be able to negotiate effectively and so [the white paper] is dead in the water.”

Speaking at CIPFA’s annual conference on Thursday, Adonis told delegates that Britain has three options: a Norway style deal; staying in the single market and Customs Union or staying in the EU all together.

He said: “Crashing out isn’t viable.”

The prime minister has also committed to ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, leaving the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy.

Kevin Bentley, chair of the LGA’s Brexit taskforce, called for greater clarity over how the replacement for EU regional funding would work. 

The government plans to replace this funding, currently worth £8.4bn, with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.

“To help ensure we have an economy fit for the future, we are urging the government to act immediately to consult on the detail of what the fund will look like.

“Councils need to know quickly how they will be able to bid, receive guarantees that the UKSPF will at least match the funding from the current European Structural Fund and receive their funding allocations by the time we leave the EU.”

Bentley added that the 7% of social care workers are non-UK EU nationals and that the LGA is keen to work with the government to ensure they can continue their work.

Julia Goldsworthy, chair of CIPFA's Brexit Advisory Commission for Public Services, said it was “difficult to see how the needs and requirements of public sector have been taken account of.”

"Indeed, the proposals seem to be kicking the can down the road on future migration arrangements, and the mood music on high [level] skills looks like account is not being taken of the important contribution that many lower skilled workers make to keeping public services going, particularly in areas such as social care,” she said.

“Furthermore, it is disappointing that there is lack of assessment on how the government's approach will affect public services and the citizens and communities that they serve, which is ultimately where the success of Brexit will be tested.”

New Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, formerly the housing minister, introduced the white paper in the Commons yesterday, saying it provided “balance”.

“It was a vision that respects the result of the referendum, and delivers a principled and practical Brexit,” he said. 

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