So, after a long, somewhat aimless journey, we are finally starting to get into the nitty gritty of the Brexit negotiations that will shape Brexit Britain and our future relationship with the EU. How exciting!

At the time of writing this blog, we have had 3 rounds of negotiations between the UK and EU.

As the token Brexiter at Snapdragon, it pleases me to say that they have gotten off to an excellent start….

 

Admittedly, they have not started as well as myself and most other people would like. Just last week in a press conference after the close of the third round of negotiations, our Brexit Secretary, David Davis, said there had been “some concrete progress”, but acknowledged that “there remains some way to go”. This was then followed by the EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, saying that there has been “no decisive progress”.

The fact that they can’t even agree on how much progress is being made at such an early stage in the negotiation process is worrying. Then we have all this fuss from the EU about a divorce bill because we want to be a sovereign, independent country. We also have the EU accusing the UK of “nostalgia” and the UK accusing the EU of “blackmail”. Let’s just put it this way – things could be better.

Nonetheless, the optimist in me says that things will improve as time goes on and the finer detail of the issues underpinning Brexit are discussed. I’ll keep telling myself that anyway!

So… on to the purpose of this blog. To formulate the Government’s stance on Brexit, the Department for Exiting the European Union has so far published 2 White Papers, 7 Position Papers, and 4 Future Partnership Papers – indeed, there has been quite a lot of paper.

But what does all this paper mean, and are the contents really worth the paper they are written on?

 

What do they mean?

Well, although the boundaries between these papers are quite fluid and sometimes not overly clear, they each serve slightly different purposes. I will try my best to enlighten you.

White Papers

White Papers are defined as “policy documents produced by the Government that set out their proposals for future legislation.” So far, we have had 2 of these on Brexit.

The first one, ‘The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union’, outlines in detail the 12 priorities that the Government is seeking to achieve with Brexit. It is essentially a 12-point plan.

The second one, ‘Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union’ is a bit more boring. It sets out the Government’s proposals for ensuring a functioning statute book once we leave the EU – it is full of legal gibberish that is very technical and hard to understand. In short, it says that all existing EU law will be converted into UK law, with Parliament then being able to decide which elements of that law to keep, amend or repeal once we leave.

With me so far? Yes? Wonderful, let’s move on…

Position Papers

So far, the Department for Exiting the European Union has published 7 position papers. These papers have a bit more juiciness to them. They each focus on specific areas of policy that are of relevance to the withdrawal process, and delineate the Government’s position on each. They are published in advance of formal negotiating rounds with the EU to directly inform discussion, no doubt serving as a good way to break the ice, before the luxury champagne is promptly poured courtesy of European tax payers!

The papers published thus far cover the Government’s position on: EU citizens in the UK/UK citizens in the EU after Brexit, privileges and immunities, nuclear materials and safeguard issues, ongoing Union judicial and administrative proceedings, Northern Ireland and Ireland, confidentiality and access to documents, and continuity in the availability of goods for the EU and the UK.

I won’t go into each paper one by one otherwise we will be here all week. You have probably already heard the key points of each of them when reading or watching the news. If you haven’t had the pleasure they can all be found here and make for superb bed time reading.

Now onto the Future Partnership Papers…

Future Partnerships Papers

The Future Partnership Papers are similar to the Position Papers. The main difference between the two is that the Position Papers focus on specific aspects of the withdrawal process going into the negotiations with the EU, whereas the Future Partnership Papers focus on what kind of relationship the Government wants Brexit Britain to forge with the EU moving forward. Collectively, they outline the Government’s vision for a “future deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU.”

We have had 4 of these papers published so far. They are a bit more airy fairy than the White Papers and Position Papers but thankfully they do contain some substance.

The most important one released so far is the first one published on the Government’s aspirations for the UK’s future customs arrangements after it leaves the EU. The paper put forward two broad approaches the UK could adopt in this regard.

  1. The first option is “a highly streamlined customs arrangement”, in which the UK leaves the customs union, but comes up with ways of simplifying the future customs regime between the UK and EU countries.
  2. The second option proposed is “a new customs partnership with the EU”, which would do away with a customs border altogether.

The Department for Exiting the European Union has also published Future Partnership Papers on: providing a cross-border civil judicial cooperation framework, enforcement and dispute resolution, and the exchange and protection of personal data.

Given that the Future Partnership Paper on customs arrangements is probably of most interest to you (it is for me anyway) and is what has generated most commentary, I will let you enjoy the rest of these yourself – they are riveting and can be found here.

 

Are the contents worth the paper that they are written on?

I have only touched the surface of these papers in this blog; they are thorough. By my calculations all the papers released so far amount to over 250 pages, and there are still more to come (woopee!).

Still, I can answer the question of whether the contents are really worth the paper they are written on – unsurprisingly, the answer appears to be a combination of yes and no. They are useful in the sense that they give a clear indication of what the Government wants from Brexit and how it envisages Brexit Britain. But at the end of the day, whether some, most or all of the contents in these papers are actually realised will ultimately depend on the negotiations with the EU themselves and how the Government’s objectives align with those of the EU’s negotiating team.

Compromises for negotiations of such significance are inevitable. The only way we will find out whether the contents of the papers will become a reality is with time.

 

If you would like to know more about these papers and their implications for your business, Snapdragon Consulting can help.

You can get in touch with me at williamh@snapdragonconsulting.co.uk or by giving me a call on 0203 176 4161.