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Brexit unveiled - Theresa May reveals negotiation plans for Brexit

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has delivered her long awaited speech detailing the government’s vision and negotiation strategy for the UK’s exit…

Executive summary

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has delivered her long awaited speech detailing the government’s vision and negotiation strategy for the UK’s exit from Europe.

The Brexit plan

Fundamentally, the UK government will not negotiate a deal to remain in the single market. The Prime Minister has announced that the UK "cannot possibly" remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean "not leaving the EU at all".  However, the government will seek “the greatest possible access with a full reciprocal free trade deal” and, whilst it is prepared to make ad hoc payments where necessary, the regular contributions associated with membership of the single market will cease.

The UK’s Brexit negotiations will focus on 12 objectives to achieve a global Britain that will strengthen the four nations of UK, and the devolved administrations will be included in the negotiation process.  The objectives include:

  • The government’s final Brexit deal between the EU and UK will be subject to a vote by both Houses of Parliament.
  • As a priority, reaching agreement with the other EU countries to guarantee the rights of EU nationals living and working in the UK and those UK nationals residing in the EU. 
  • Protecting  and building on workers’ rights which have, in the main, evolved from EU laws.
  • The  pursuit of a customs agreement with the EU whilst striking trade deals with countries outside of the EU.
  • Returning  the sovereignty of the UK Parliament as lawmaker whilst, in the interim,      incorporating all EU laws and regulations into domestic law until such time as it can be reviewed for its future relevance.
  • Maintaining the common travel area with Ireland.

The Prime Minister stated that the negotiation will conclude within two years from triggering Article 50 and interim arrangements will be negotiated. However, the government will not be providing a "blow-by-blow" account of negotiations in order to maintain the UK’s discipline.

Comment

Whilst the Prime Minister has stated that both Houses of Parliament will have a vote on the final negotiated outcome, she has failed to set out the government’s strategy to deal with a vote defeating the government’s concluded negotiations, even though she stated that the negotiations will be complete within the two year prescribed period.

The speech has come at a time when the outcome of the government’s appeal to the Supreme Court is awaited.  It could be argued that the Supreme Court’s judgment is almost academic in light of Parliament’s recent vote in favour of a motion to trigger Article 50 before the end of March 2017.  The judgment will however determine the government’s method of triggering Article 50 and in particular whether it can exercise the royal prerogative to do so.

There is also further uncertainty surrounding Article 127 of the European Economic Area agreement.  Pressure group British Influence is challenging the UK government, arguing that the UK will not, by virtue of Article 127, automatically leave the single market upon Brexit.  Legal proceedings have been brought but have now been postponed until February 2017.

Jacqui Bickerton is a Solicitor and Professional Support Lawyer. To discuss any of the issues in this update please email brexit.group@weightmans.com.