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Brexit white paper seeks free movement for skilled workers and students

Document says ‘depth of relationship between peoples of UK and EU’ must be recognised
Businesses should be able to move “their talented people” from the UK to the European Union – and vice versa – after Brexit, according to the government’s much anticipated strategy white paper.
The document, published on Thursday, also says the government is prepared to allow EU citizens to travel freely without a visa in the UK for tourism and temporary work and allow EU students to study in the UK.
Although the white paper is emphatic that there will be an end to the free movement of people at the end of the transition period in December 2020, the document says it will be necessary to recognise the “depth of the relationship and close ties between the peoples of the UK and the EU”.
Hard Brexiters had voiced concern that despite the headline commitment to end free movement, EU citizens would still have preferential access to the UK compared with other countries, although Whitehall sources have indicated that it would be theoretically possible for other countries to strike similar deals in the future.
The release of the white paper was greeted with chaotic scenes at the House of Commons when it became apparent that copies of the document were not immediately available to MPs as the new Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, got up to introduce it.
There were shouts of complaint from across the chamber, including from former Brexit minister Steve Baker. The Speaker, John Bercow, suspended proceedings for five minutes as late-arriving copies of the document were flung around the chamber.
The document said that on movement for workers after Brexit, “the UK’s future economic partnership should therefore provide reciprocal arrangements, consistent with the ending of free movement”, including measures that “support businesses to provide services and to move their talented people”.
There was little further detail on how migration arrangements could work after Brexit, however, although a white paper has been promised in the autumn. Officials have indicated that the notional cap on net migration at 100,000 a year will remain after the UK departs.
The Brexit white paper has been described as the most important document to emerge since the referendum of June 2016. Cabinet rows about the soft Brexit nature of the plan prompted the resignations of Boris Johnson and David Davis at the beginning of the week.
Theresa May said the UK had evolved its negotiating position with the EU, in an approach that she said “requires pragmatism and compromise from both sides” in an introduction to the white paper. The prime minister added: “This was the spirit in which my cabinet agreed a way forward at Chequers” with no reference to the two resignations that followed.
Unhappy rightwing Conservatives are expected to study the document carefully, and will consider whether they want to support a leadership challenge to May. They have already pledged to mount a guerrilla campaign of opposition to her leadership, warning there could also be further resignations from the government.
The document sets out, as expected, proposals for the UK to agree to to a “common rule book” of common standards food and goods after Brexit, and a “facilitated customs arrangement” in which the UK would collect both UK and EU tariffs for goods entering Britain.
Such proposals so irritated Johnson that he said that he believed that the UK would be “headed for a status of a colony” because the country was proposing to share rules with the European Union.
That would “remove the need for customs checks and controls as if they were a combined customs territory”, which would “enable the UK to control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world”. Officials said that the new FCA would be implemented after the transition period in January 2021, although it is estimated only 4% of goods would be subject to a different EU tariff, so requiring a refund.
Ministers hope to sign an association agreement with the EU after Brexit, to allow “regular dialogue between UK and EU leaders” and to negotiate over any problems that emerge.
A joint committee and binding independent arbitration would be created to deal with any disputes between the two that the UK and EU courts cannot resolve, but it will no longer be possible to refer cases from the UK courts to the European court of justice.