Where are the red lines? Brexit white paper to anger Tory Right

JOE MURPHY

Theresa May triggered warnings of battles in Parliament and “fierce discussion” with EU leaders with a 98-page White Paper setting out her wish list for post-Brexit relations.

The Prime Minister said she was setting out “pragmatic” proposals that would allow frictionless trade but end free movement and the role of the European Court.

But EU leaders warned they would not permit “cherrypicking”, while Brexiteers thought they could scent further concessions to Brussels in the wind, including on immigration.

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab warned MPs against “criticising or carping”. In a message aimed at both Tory rebels and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, he said they would be “held to account” if they blocked a trade deal.

New Brexit Secretary unveils details of the white paper in the Commons

Key details of the White Paper include:

  • Although free movement is “ending”, the paper sets out people who should move freely between the EU and UK. There would be no visa needed “for tourism and temporary business activity”; Business should be able “to move their talented people” and the plans would “facilitate mobility for students and young people” for study and “cultural experiences”.

  • Britain would collect tariffs on behalf of the EU under Mrs May’s plan for new customs arrangements, but there is no demand set out for the EU to collect UK tariffs on goods coming through its borders. Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has tabled amendments for a vote next week demanding reciprocity.

  • Instead of traditional border checks, there would be checks “across the country” based on “intelligence and risk” to spot cheats. New laws would make it an offence to pay the wrong tariff.

  • New financial rules would fall short of existing access for the City, the paper acknowledges. Calling for enhanced “equivalence”, with each side setting its rules, it states: “The UK recognises, however, that this arrangement cannot replicate the EU’s passporting regime.”

  • The UK will seek a security partnership that maintains all operational capabilities, such as data sharing and co-operation to combat terrorism and crime. However this is subject to negotiation.

  • On the Northern Ireland border UK proposals would honour the “letter and the spirit of the Belfast Agreement” by enabling frictionless trade, according to the White Paper. Again, it is subject to agreement.

  • The paper suggests a Ukraine-style association agreement between the UK and the EU, governed by a new body.

Mr Raab refused to identify so-called “red lines” in the long-awaited White Paper - fuelling Brexiteer worries that the Government is prepared to concede ground on key issues like free movement in return for better market access. For example, while the paper revealed that EU workers will be allowed to come temporarily without a visa it failed to state how long that might mean.

Speaking on BBC radio, Mr Raab insisted that Britain would control its own borders, adding: “The White Paper will make that crystal clear.”

But when asked about red lines for the talks, he refused to reveal any, saying: “If you air your negotiating strategy in public then you weaken it.”

The White Paper sets out in greater detail the Chequers accord thrashed out in Cabinet last week, which resulted in the resignations of David Davis and Boris Johnson.

In her foreword Mrs May called it “pragmatic”, a term that contrasted with her past pledge for a “red white and blue” Brexit a year ago.

Mr Raab said he was “confident” of a deal that Parliament would support. “For all this talk about parliamentary riots and sabotage, actually when push comes to shove I think people focus carefully and see they have got to do the responsible thing which is back the Government to get the best deal for the whole country,” he said.

He added: “For those that are either criticising or carping or whatever else, they need to come back with credible alternatives.”

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, attending the Nato summit in Brussels, acknowledged that there would be “fierce discussion” with EU leaders.

“What we say to the European Union is we’re not the only ones who can’t do the cherry-picking,” he said.

“If they want a deep and special partnership with Britain going forward, then we have to look at our relationship as a whole.”

But the mood at Westminster remained sour ahead of the publication. Tory MP Maria Caulfield, who resigned as a party vice chairperson in protest at Mrs May’s withdrawal stance, said Brexiteers were being held in contempt by a “small cabal” in Downing Street.

Labour’s Yvette Cooper said her party was unlikely to back the plan.

She added: “No deal only becomes more likely if the government insists on putting a gun to parliament’s head and making it a no deal.”