UKCW 2018

NEC BIRMINGHAM   09-11 OCTOBER 2018

BREXIT

The government has published an official policy document setting out its Brexit plans.

The White Paper lays out the government's 12 "principles" including migration control and "taking control of our own laws".

Brexit Secretary David Davis said the UK's "best days are still to come", outside the EU.

Labour said the document "says nothing" and had been produced too late for "meaningful" scrutiny.

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The White Paper's publication comes after pressure from MPs across the House of Commons.

It sets out the themes of the government's goals for its negotiations with the EU, as announced by Prime Minister Theresa May last month.

These include withdrawing from the EU single market and customs union and negotiating a new free trade agreement.

It also says reaching an early deal on the rights of EU nationals in the UK and British expats in Europe has "not proven possible", saying the government wants to secure an agreement with European countries "at the earliest opportunity" during the formal talks.

And it says the government will "keep our positions closely held and will need at times to be careful about the commentary we make public", with MPs offered a vote on the final deal.

Labour is calling for a "meaningful vote" that could send the prime minister back to the negotiating table if the deal is deemed unsatisfactory by MPs.

Formal negotiations can begin once the UK has given notice of Brexit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which Mrs May has promised to do by the end of March.

On Wednesday evening MPs voted to allow the PM to do this as they backed the European Union Bill by 498 votes to 114.

MPs will discuss the bill in more detail next week when it reaches the committee stage in the Commons, and Labour has vowed to force through amendments.

Hundreds of amendments have already been tabled for debate between Monday and Wednesday, with objectives set out in the government's strategy expected to attract more.

A total of 47 Labour rebels voted against the bill.

Shadow cabinet members Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler quit the party's front bench shortly before Wednesday evening's vote, and in total, 13 Labour frontbenchers voted against their own party position which was to support the bill.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said other parties had also been divided on the issue, with two of the Liberal Democrats' nine MPs abstaining despite orders to oppose the bill.

Mr McDonnell said a decision on whether frontbench rebels could remain in their jobs would be taken "in due course", and that the atmosphere in his party was "one of mutual respect", with determination to oppose a "reckless Brexit".

He said Labour "may look divided" but would unite after the government triggers official negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty while "the Tory Party will split apart".

'Calibre judged'

The Brexit bill was published last week, after the Supreme Court decided MPs and peers must have a say before Article 50 could be triggered.

It rejected the government's argument that Mrs May had sufficient powers to trigger Brexit without consulting Parliament.

Iain Watson, BBC political correspondent, said a "sizeable" Labour rebellion could grow further if amendments were not passed.

The SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats all opposed the government's bill, alongside Tory Ken Clarke.

The SNP's foreign affairs spokesman at Westminster, Alex Salmond, said there would be "detailed questions" about the bill during its next stage.

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He said "the calibre of the government will be judged by how they respond to the amendments".

Mr Clarke, the only Conservative MP to defy his party by voting against the bill, said the result was "historic", but the "mood could change" when the "real action" of negotiations with the EU starts.

Exit talks with the EU are expected to last up to two years, with the UK predicted to leave the 28-member organisation in 2019.

Source: BBC News

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