The Government’s White Paper on Brexit, published today, is the clearest evidence yet that the package of proposals announced at Chequers are unworkable and bad for Britain.
The proposals cross Theresa May’s own red lines, fail Labour’s six tests and are a million miles away from the kind of Brexit people thought they were getting – whether they voted Leave or Remain in 2016. They are also an admission that the Government’s promise of securing a deal with the ‘exact same benefits’ as EU membership simply cannot be delivered. Instead, this hard Brexit proposal, which would see the UK crash out of the Single Market and the Customs Union, would inflict severe damage on our trade, our economy and our public services.
And in a sign of how this government priorities are of out of touch with the British people, the NHS isn’t even mentioned in the document except a passing reference in the Prime Minister’s forward. Not only is the Brexit dividend a myth – it seems the Government have decided the futures of thousands of NHS staff, access to research and medicines and future investment in the NHS matter so little they don’t feature in their plan for Brexit.
Today’s proposals - which are unlikely to be accepted by the EU - do not meet the deep concerns of many businesses and trade unions, particularly those representing the services sector, which accounts for 80 per cent of our economy, who are desperate for the UK to remain fully in the Single Market and Customs Union.
And they do not meet the desire of hard liners who want Britain to operate independently of all EU regulations – instead they would leave us as rule takers, paying for the privilege of being half-in and half-out without any influence at the table.
Chuka Umunna MP, leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“On any measure the Government’s White Paper is totally unworkable and a bad deal for Britain.
“Not only does it fail to meet the concerns of business, it does nothing to protect workers’ rights, safeguard the environment or protect consumers.
“The British people face a £50 billion divorce bill, and people are quickly realising that Brexit will harm business, trade and public services. More and more members of the public know the only way to sort this political mess out is to take back control of the process with a People’s Vote on a final Brexit deal.”
Mike Clancy, General Secretary of Prospect, said:
“The White Paper is the clearest indication yet that the Government has no real answers to deal with the big issues affecting our members in areas of vital national interest like science, air traffic control, environmental protection, energy or the civil service.
“After months of infighting, division, and dead-end proposals, all the government have been able to come up with is a plan that at best leaves us paying more money for less influence and at worst sabotages vital cooperation and trading arrangements.
“Little in these proposals will reassure industry or our members that the cost of Brexit will not impact on jobs and investment, or jeopardize vital employment standards and hard fought for rights.
“Brexit is too important to get wrong – it is clear once again that giving people a say is the only way to legitimise the final deal.”
Clare Gerada, former Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:
“Whether people voted Leave or Remain in the referendum, nobody voted for less money for the NHS, longer waiting times or increased pressure on staffing levels.
“Patients and NHS staff were promised that Brexit would be a tonic for our health service, but the White Paper contains nothing that will ensure NHS funding is maintained and nothing to protect vital staffing and research links to Europe. With no mention of the NHS in the substance of the document, this White Paper is a massive disappointment for the NHS.”
Rex Sandbach, who runs a business in the West of England which supplies specialist epoxies that are transported all over Europe and often used for medical treatments, said:
“This White Paper would turn the UK into a rule taker with no guarantees that the EU will accept any plan for frictionless trade that my company requires. This would leave the UK moving into a position of having to accept all rules without having a say over them. Our business relies on truly frictionless trade - we need today's effortless arrangements to avoid having to relocate to within the EU.
“This paper also does nothing for the bulk of the UK economy – which is 80% based on services – and raises serious questions on the future of growth, investment and jobs.”
Notes to editors
The full White Paper can be read here.