UK proposes free trade relationship in Brexit white paper

The UK Government has published its long-anticipated Brexit white paper earlier today, proposing the establishment of a free trade area for goods between the UK and the European Union.

Titled “The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union”, the 104-page document details its proposals for post-Brexit relations with the EU, which European negotiators will now consider.

In the paper, a “common rule book” partnership for goods – including agricultural products – is put forward.

Free trade

The proposed free trade “economic partnership”, according to the UK, would “protect the uniquely integrated supply chains” developed over the last 40 years, and the jobs and livelihoods dependent on them, “ensuring businesses on both sides can continue operating through their current value and supply chains”.

The UK says such an arrangement would avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border, and mean that businesses would not need to complete costly customs declarations.

The document details how this proposal would enable products to only undergo one set of approvals and authorisations in either market, before being sold in both.

“As a result, the free trade area for goods would see the UK and the EU meet their shared commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland through the overall future relationship,” the white paper states.

The UK Government says such a solution would tick two boxes: It would avoid the need for a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland; and without harming the internal market of the UK – “doing so in a way that fully respects the integrity of the EU’s single market, customs union, and its rules-based framework”.

The Government says it wants to “minimise new barriers to trade between the UK and the EU, and hopes that both sides will work together to reduce them further over time”.

‘Common rulebook’

As part of the UK’s proposed economic partnership, a “common rulebook” for goods including agri-food is put forward, covering only those rules necessary to provide for frictionless trade at the border.

This means that the UK would make an upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with the relevant EU rules, with all those rules legislated for by Parliament or the devolved legislatures.

In combination with no tariffs on goods, such an arrangement would apparently avoid any new border friction.

In addition, the UK has proposed participating in EU agencies that provide authorisations for goods in highly regulated sectors.

These are namely the European Chemicals Agency, the European Aviation Safety Agency, and the European Medicines Agency.

The UK has offered a stance accepting the rules of these agencies and contributing to their costs, under new arrangements that recognise the UK will not be a member state.

The UK is to put forward new arrangements on services and digital, and new economic and regulatory arrangements for financial services.