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Today our government published yet another white paper on Brexit. This one is entitled Legislating for the Withdrawal Agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Union Cm 9674 and it proposes legislation for the implementation of the withdrawal agreement contemplated by art 50 (2) of the Treaty of European Union,
A draft of that agreement was published at the end of February and about 80% of it has been agreed according to Monsieur Barnier (see Press statement by Michel Barnier following the July 2018 General Affairs Council (Article 50) 20 July 2018). But there remains one stumbling block and that is how to avoid the need for border posts with customs officers and immigration inspectors along the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland when the UK leaves the Customs Union and Single Market that allows freedom of movement between member states. One obvious solution would be for Northern Ireland to remain in the Customs Union and Single Market so that the border between the EU and UK is the Irish Sea but that would be anathema to Ulster Unionists as well as many in the Conservative Party and perhaps other British politicians.
It is no doubt for that reason that the 44 page white paper is almost silent on Ireland. I counted only 13 references to the island in the text, mainly in the Introduction. There is a lot more detail on Citizen's Rights (Chapter 2 - paragraph 16 to 51), the Implementation Period (Chapter 3 - paragraph 52 to 104), The financial settlement (Chapter 4 - paragraph 105 to 136) and Procedures for approval and implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement and framework for our future relationship (Chapter 5 - paragraph 137 - 157). A lot of Mrs May's problems would disappear if more of her backbenchers and local Conservative Association members bothered to read those last 20 paragraphs.
In that it shows how far the negotiations have progressed on everything except Ireland and it betokens an intention to seeing the job through I am mildly comforted by this document. Should anyone wish to discuss it or Brexit in general, call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.