Detailed guide: Exiting the European Union

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The country voted to leave the EU and it is the duty of the Government and Parliament to make sure we do just that. There won’t be a second referendum.

The rules for exiting the EU are set out in Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is the only lawful route for withdrawal from the EU under the Treaties. It was triggered on 29 March 2017.

The UK government want to establish a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU. We are leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe; we will stay reliable partners, willing allies, and close friends. We want a strong UK, working together with a strong EU in pursuit of our shared values and delivering for ordinary working people in the UK and in the EU.

Negotiations

The Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) is responsible for overseeing negotiations to leave the EU and establishing the future relationship between the UK and EU. The Department now has over 300 staff in London and a further 120 people working in the UK Representation in Brussels.

DExEU is currently undertaking 2 broad areas of work:

  1. We are listening to as many organisations, companies and institutions as possible – from the large PLCs to small business, from the devolved administrations through to councils, local government and the major metropolitan bodies – to build a national consensus around our negotiating position. We are doing this through meetings, visits and a series of sector roundtables, led by the Secretary of State.

  2. We are carrying out a programme of sectoral and regulatory analysis, which will identify the key factors for British businesses and the labour force that will affect our negotiations with the EU. This will help inform our negotiating position and build a detailed understanding of how withdrawing from the EU will affect our domestic policies, to seize the opportunities and ensure a smooth process of exit.

We want a positive new strategic partnership with the EU and we are confident of achieving this. It is right though that the government should prepare for every eventuality – but to do so in the knowledge that a constructive and optimistic approach to the negotiations to come is in the best interests of Europe and the best interests of Britain.

The Government has published a White Paper on the UK’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union. This provides Parliament and the country with a comprehensive vision of what we are seeking to achieve. It also provides the information to allow debate and scrutiny of our approach.

The White Paper builds on the 12 negotiating objectives set out by the Prime Minister. It sets out a serious and ambitious vision of a new partnership between the UK and the EU that is positive and constructive, a partnership that will be good for the UK and good for the rest of Europe.

Migration

Immigration and freedom of movement

DExEU is working closely with the Home Office and other government departments to identify and develop options to shape our future immigration system, including considering the best way to control the number of people coming to the UK following our exit from the EU.

At every step of these negotiations we will work to ensure the best possible outcome for the British people.

Rights and status of EU nationals and UK nationals

The rights and status of EU nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EU is unchanged as we approach our exit.

We want to seek the earliest agreement to protect the status of EU nationals who are already living in the UK, and the status of UK nationals already living in other Member States, following our exit. The Prime Minister has made clear that we stand ready to reach a deal on this right now. It remains an important priority for the UK and many other Member States to provide certainty to these groups as soon as possible.

You can find more advice for EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals in the EU.

Our future immigration system for EU nationals

We will remain an open and tolerant country, and one that recognises the valuable contribution migrants make to our society. However, the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign has been clear: leaving the EU must mean control of the number of people who come to the UK from Europe. We want to see net migration to the UK fall to sustainable levels.

DExEU is working closely with the Home Office and other Government departments to identify and develop options to shape our future immigration system.

Intolerance in the UK

We will not tolerate hate crime or any kind of attacks against people in our country because of their ethnic origin. We are a proud multi-faith, multi-ethnic society and we will stay that way.

The Government is committed to tackling hate crime, which is why we have published a Hate Crime Action Plan which focuses on reducing hate crime, increasing reporting and improving support for victims. We have also launched a new funding scheme to help protect places of worship.

Trade and the Single Market

The Department for Exiting the European Union oversees negotiations to leave the EU and leads on establishing a new strategic partnership with the EU as part of the overall negotiation.

The Department for International Trade leads on boosting UK trade: promoting the UK as a place to do business and trade with; driving inward investment; and, in time, negotiating trade deals and free trade agreements.

Exiting the EU and trade

Leaving the EU offers us an opportunity to forge a new role for ourselves in the world: to negotiate our own trade agreements and to be a positive and powerful force for free trade. The UK has always been a leading voice for free trade in the EU and globally. Outside the EU, we will have the complete freedom to pursue this approach and to push for more open, global trade, supported by strong global institutions like the WTO.

The single market

The single market works by treating EU member states as a single economic area. It means businesses can trade goods across the EU without paying tariffs. The single market for services seeks to remove barriers to businesses wanting to trade across borders, or to establish a company in another country.

We have ruled out being a member of the single market, as the PM said in the Lancaster House speech. EU leaders have made clear their view that members of the single market must sign up to the ‘four freedoms’ that underpin it – including the free movement of people – and be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. We respect that position.

Instead, we want a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the EU. This will enable free-flowing trade in both goods and services, and ensure the freedom for UK companies to trade with and operate within European markets.

We also intend to leave the Common Commercial Policy and for the UK not to be bound by the EU’s Common External Tariff so that we can pursue our own independent trade policy, securing trade deals with new partners.

The Prime Minister created the Department for International Trade for this purpose. We will agree a new customs arrangement with the EU to ensure that trade with the EU is as seamless and frictionless as possible, including between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

The Customs Union

Negotiating new comprehensive UK trade agreements is a priority for the Government as we leave the EU. We want to have a new, mutually beneficial customs agreement with the EU that supports these objectives, but we have an open mind about the form of that agreement.

EU Funding

We will guarantee EU structural and investment projects that are signed before the UK leaves the EU, even if they continue beyond our EU departure. This is provided they represent good value for money and are in line with the UK’s strategic objectives.

UK organisations making bids directly to the European Commission (institutions, universities and businesses) should keep applying for funding.

Over the next few months, the Government will engage closely to review EU funding schemes, so any ongoing funding commitments best serve our national interest.

Legislation

Our EU membership means that EU law currently applies in the UK. To ensure a smooth transition and provide certainty, wherever practical and appropriate, we are going to turn existing EU law into UK law. After this, our Parliament can change, repeal, and improve any law it chooses. All Government departments are currently reviewing the EU laws that apply in their areas and how our withdrawal from the EU will affect how these laws work.

What is needed to leave the EU

In March 2017, we introduced the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which was necessary to implement the referendum result and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court.

The European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill was a piece of legislation necessary to implement the referendum result, and respect the judgment of the Supreme Court. It was passed by Parliament and given Royal Assent in March.

The European Communities Act will be repealed on the day we leave the EU – meaning that the authority of EU law in the UK will end. We will convert the body of existing EU law into domestic law and then Parliament will be free to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses.

Without the Great Repeal Bill, there would be large gaps in the UK statute book after we left the EU. This process will give businesses and workers maximum possible certainty as we leave the EU. Existing workers’ legal rights will remain guaranteed in law.

Parliament’s involvement in the process of leaving the EU

We have always been committed to parliamentary scrutiny of our withdrawal from the EU, and we have always said that we will observe the constitutional and legal precedents that apply to the final deal agreed between the UK and the EU.

Indeed, the Prime Minister has confirmed that Parliament will have a say on the final deal we achieve with the European Union by putting that deal to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, before it comes into force. We will, of course, continue to support Parliament in its scrutiny role as we enter the negotiating stage.

Devolution

The UK voted to leave the EU, and we have a responsibility to deliver on that vote by negotiating as the UK and securing the right deal for the whole of the UK.

We have been working closely with the Devolved Administrations and established a Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, so ministers from each of the UK’s Devolved Administrations can contribute to the process of planning for our departure from the EU.

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