74.While the European Union has stressed that the Government’s White Paper contained a number of areas of convergence between the UK and the European Union, it has stated that the main components of the Government’s vision for the future EU-UK economic relationship are not acceptable. We do not see how the Government’s proposals on the common rulebook for goods and the Facilitated Customs Arrangements can remain as currently proposed given the European Union’s fundamental objections. Nevertheless, the Secretary of State has said that discussions on these will continue. If, however, agreement cannot be reached on the basis of the current proposals, the Government will have to find an alternative approach to the future EU-UK economic relationship.
75.The differences between the two sides on the future economic relationship are significant but formal negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship will not start until after the UK has withdrawn from the European Union on 29 March 2019. While Parliament will want to see a detailed Political Declaration, with clarity on the shape of the future economic relationship including customs, trade and services, the Government’s urgent priority must be to secure a Withdrawal Agreement. This would provide much needed certainty to citizens and businesses in the UK and the European Union, including the transition/implementation period up to the end of December 2020. We welcome commitments from both sides to negotiate “continuously” to meet this objective. Agreeing the terms of the “backstop” to prevent a hard border in Ireland remains the biggest obstacle to securing a Withdrawal Agreement.
Published: 18 September 2018