LONDON, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) — A policy paper spelling out the British government’s plans for exiting the European Union was published Thursday.
Brexit Secretary David Davis listed 12 main points in the document detailing how the government wants to make its exit from Brussels and how it sees its new partnership with the remaining 27 EU members.
He said Britain’s best days were still to come outside the EU.
The document lays out general principles rather than specific details and says the government will keep its positions closely held and will need at times to be careful about giving a running commentary in public.
The publication of the document, known as a white paper, came less than 24 hours after Prime Minister Theresa May was given an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons over her plans to trigger the Article 50 mechanism for leaving the EU.
Davis told members of parliament (MPs) in the Commons: “This White Paper confirms the prime minister’s vision of an independent, truly global UK and an ambitious future relationship with the EU.”
He said the exit strategy was based on principles that will guide the government following last June’s referendum vote when a majority of people backed leaving the EU.
They cover Britain taking control of its own borders and law making, controlling immigration from EU countries into Britain and protecting workers’ rights achieved through EU legislation.
The strategy also seeks to secure rights for EU citizens already living in Britain and the rights of British nationals living in EU countries.
Davis said the government recognizes EU principles which include freedom of EU citizens to freely cross borders of all member states. As a result, he said, Britain will leave the single market.
Instead, he said government negotiators will also seek a free trade agreement with European markets, forging a new strategic partnership with the EU, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement and mutually beneficial new customs agreement.
Beyond the EU, the government wants to forge ambitious free trade agreements with other countries across the world.
Davis said the British government wanted the EU to succeed, politically and economically. He added that while Britain cannot sign new trade deals until after Brexit, the country can and is preparing the ground for them.
“This means updating the terms of our membership of the World Trade Organization,” he said.
Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary, described the white paper as a “wish list rather than an action plan.”
He said: “For months they have refused to publish a plan or allow proper scrutiny, and when they are finally forced to produce a White Paper, it is rushed, limited and not well thought through.”
One of Britain’s biggest trade unions, the GMB described the white paper as “bordering on a fairy tale.”
Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said later that Britain falling back on World Trade Organization rules would be damaging. She said the pressure was on for the government to deliver the best possible deal, as well as a smooth and orderly Brexit.
Political observers say despite political battles, May is expected to beat off challenges to trigger Article 50 next month.