The British government has published its long-awaited White Paper on its future relationship with the EU.

The plan envisages a free trade area between the UK and EU based on a "common rule book" for the production and sale of goods, as well as for agriculture and fisheries products.

The UK would develop its own services regime, but would seek reciprocal access to the EU financial markets. 

Prime Minister Theresa May has said the proposal "is delivering on the vote of the British people", following comments by US President Donald Trump claiming he was unsure whether the different route Mrs May is taking fulfilled the wishes of the people.

The paper proposes a customs partnership that London claims will allow the UK to maintain frictionless trade with the EU, and to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.

The White Paper states that the future trade arrangements will mean that the so-called backstop - or insurance policy to avoid a hard border - will never need to come into effect.

The paper says that disputes over how the common rule book should be interpreted would be handled by a Joint Committee and arbitration between both sides.

Britain's proposal for a Brexit deal received a guarded welcome in Brussels, with the European Parliament's delegation saying the wide-ranging draft went in the direction it wanted.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said in a tweet that the paper will be analysed and looks "forward to negotiations with the #UK next week." 


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The paper, titled 'The Future Relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union', envisages a close future relationship on a range of areas, from the economic sphere, to security, data, science and innovation.

The actual degree to which the UK will be subject to ongoing EU rules and regulations remains the subject of bitter debate within the Conservative Party.

The 98-page document envisages the UK remaining in a number of EU agencies, such as those which government aviation, chemicals and medicines.

However, the EU may frown on third countries being full members of such agencies, especially as they are operated under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

The UK will also seek to remain close to the EU's energy and transport markets.  In particular, membership of, or some kind of alignment with, the EU's energy market is seen as vital for the continued operation of the Single Electricity Market which operates on the island of Ireland.

The White Paper acknowleges this.

London also seeks to develop a common rule book for state aid and competition law, one of the most tightly regulated aspects of EU membership.

In order to ensure that the UK will not seek to undercut the EU economy after Brexit, the paper proposes "non-regression" clauses that would govern the environment, employment and social rights.

The common rule book would be legislated for in the UK by parliament and the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

On the continuing negotiations between the EU and UK on the Northern Ireland backstop, British sources insist that the White Paper effectively removes the need for the backstop to be ever needed.

Sources say that the Temporary Customs Arrangement (TCA), which was published on 7 June, remains the UK's preferred alternative to the European Commission's version of the backstop, which was enshrined in the draft Withdrawal Agreement as a protocol.

The TCA envisages the backstop being applied UK wide, so as to avoid any checks on the Irish Sea, as well as avoiding a hard land border.  London also wants the backstop to be time-limited, coming to an end at the end of 2020.

Both the Irish Government and the European Commission Task Force have dismissed any notion that the backstop would be time-limited, with the EU's chief negotiator insisting that the backstop should be applied to Northern Ireland only.

The Government and EU member states have also rejected the TCA since it did not address the issue of regulatory alignment and the need to avoid checks on whether or not goods and agri-food products comply with a huge range of EU rules.

British officials, however, say that the question of regulatory alignment is dealt with in the White Paper by way of the free trade area, combined with a common rulebook on standards. 

Officials acknowledge, however, that the backstop remains the subject of a parallel negotiation between the UK and EU.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said the British Government's position on Brexit has become much more credible following the publication of its White Paper today.