Farcical scenes caused the House of Commons to be suspended as MPs weren’t given copies of the UK government’s Brexit white paper before the new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, addressed them.
Raab’s attempt to explain the government’s position on Brexit to the Commons descended into what Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer described as an “utter shambles” – with MPs hurriedly throwing copies of the white paper at their parliamentary colleagues during the five minutes that the house was suspended.
Unsurprisingly, opposition MPs were particularly aghast at the government’s manner in delivering their published paper on Brexit – none more so than Labour’s Starmer.
Starmer directed the blame at Raab, who took up the role of chief UK Brexit negotiator this week, telling him: “He’s not got off to a very good start. The utter shambles of the last twenty minutes that led to the suspension of the house during a statement is clear evidence Mr Speaker of why the government is in such a mess.”
Starmer, the MP for Holborn and St Pancras, was particularly bemused as to why the media had reportedly been handed a copy of the Brexit paper at a briefing, hours before he had been handed it.
In response to the wave of dissatisfaction at the proceedings, Raab told the house: “Can I just apologise for the late arrival. We will look into what happened with the clerks and we will avoid it happening again.”
One of the most eye-catching proposals contained within the document is EU migrants being given the right to work in the UK “visa-free” in the future under the government’s Brexit blueprint.
The 100-page document reveals that citizens coming to Britain from the continent will be allowed to “travel freely... for tourism and temporary business activity.”
In return, Theresa May’s government would expect the same arrangements for Brits looking to live and work in Europe. The white paper said the immigration plans were “consistent with the ending of free movement, respecting the UK’s control of its borders.”
The proposals are likely to anger Brexiteers who insist that leaving the EU should mean large scale reductions in immigration numbers.
The white paper, called ‘The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union’, says: “The UK would seek reciprocal arrangements that would allow UK nationals to visit the EU without a visa for short-term business reasons and equivalent arrangements for EU citizens coming to the UK.
“This would permit only paid work in limited and clearly defined circumstances, in line with the current business visa policy.”
Elsewhere, the document confirms that the government seeks to formalize a “common rule book” with Brussels on regulations, and enter into a “free trade area” on goods.
Theresa May in her foreword says: “In short, the proposal set out in this white paper would honour the result of the referendum.
“It would deliver a principled and practical Brexit that is in our national interest, and the UK’s and EU’s mutual interest. Together we must now get on and deliver it.”
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