Industry Responds to Brexit White Paper

The publication of the government’s 77-page Brexit white paper outlines areas such as the future of free trade and the immigration workforce

While many have welcomed the clarity that the release of the white paper has provided, some are calling for reassurance on points such as workers' rights, while others wish to see the implementation of a new agriculture support system for farmers.

The white paper outlines the government's strategy on how to leave the European Union and was published a day after MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour to trigger Article 50.

Responding to the document, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium said, "There are reasons to be optimistic about trade and retail in a post-Brexit world. It’s encouraging that the government recognises that the UK has a role to play as a champion of free and open trade. However, securing a positive new customs arrangement with the EU, which enables mutually beneficial opportunities for trade with the EU and the rest of the world, will be crucial to ensuring British shoppers aren’t hit with the costs of unwanted import tariffs.

“Making these stated ambitions a reality will require close partnership between the retail industry and UK-EU negotiators. In the short-term, the number one priority needs to be ensuring that Britain’s exit from the EU is orderly, allowing all goods traded between the EU and the UK to be in free circulation."

Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, has stated that while it applauds the ambition to "build a better Britain", the white paper does not provide the reassurance that what will come in the aftermath of Brexit won't "lead to lower standards for consumers, workers and the environment".

Ben Reynolds, deputy chief executive of Sustain said, “Given the huge importance of the UK farm and food system to our economy and health and wellbeing, we welcome the commitment to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities.

"We hope the detail that follows this statement of intent from the government backs up this position and that we don’t race towards becoming a bargain bin Britain, with lower quality standards in the food we eat and the farming we support.

"There must be no weakening of rules on environment, pesticides, animal welfare, workers rights or food safety to both protect public health and ecosystems but also to ensure we are able to continue to sell goods in global markets where such standards are expected. To ensure this we believe it is important to take time to design a new agriculture support system for farmers, which ensures a healthy environment and other public benefits, given the huge impact any policy changes will have on farm viability."

Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry said, “We welcome the additional detail that has been given in this white paper addressing some of our concerns. It is vital that the business voice continues to be heard loud and clear in the UK and across Europe to make a success of Brexit and ensure our future prosperity.

“Falling back on WTO rules would be damaging so the pressure is on to deliver the best possible deal, as well as a smooth and orderly exit.

“The UK faces skills and labour shortages so businesses will welcome the opportunity to help design a post-Brexit migration system which works for all sectors. It is critical that business has access to the graduate and non-graduate workers our economy needs to thrive.

“The government is right to recognise the importance of the views of the devolved nations, so businesses across the UK will want to feel they are being listened to."

The 12 Brexit principles that the government outlined in the document are:

1. Providing certainty and clarity: We will provide certainty wherever we can as we approach the negotiations.

2. Taking control of our own laws: We will take control of our own statute book and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice of the European Union in the UK.

3. Strengthening the Union: We will secure a deal that works for the entire UK – for Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and all parts of England. We remain fully committed to the Belfast Agreement and its successors.

4. Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area: We will work to deliver a practical solution that allows for the maintenance of the Common Travel Area, whilst protecting the integrity of our immigration system and which protects our strong ties with Ireland.

5. Controlling immigration: We will have control over the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU: We want to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as we can.

7. Protecting workers’ rights: We will protect and enhance existing workers’ rights.

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets: We will forge a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a wide reaching, bold and ambitious free trade agreement, and will seek a mutually beneficial new customs agreement with the EU.

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries: We will forge ambitious free trade relationships across the world.

10. Ensuring the UK remains the best place for science and innovation: We will remain at the vanguard of science and innovation and will seek continued close collaboration with our European partners.

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism: We will continue to work with the EU to preserve European security, to fight terrorism, and to uphold justice across Europe.

12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU: We will seek a phased process of implementation, in which both the UK and the EU institutions and the remaining EU Member States prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us.

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