David Mundell: There’s no alternative to the Brexit White Paper

The border issues are a sticking point in the White Paper. Picture: Jane Barlow
The border issues are a sticking point in the White Paper. Picture: Jane Barlow
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Today marks 250 days until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

The day we will deliver on the result of the referendum and the decision of people in the UK to take back control of the UK’s laws, borders and money.

Much has been achieved by the UK government as we prepare for exit day on 29 March, 2019. We have published our Future Partnership White Paper – a comprehensive and ambitious vision for the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This will ensure that Scotland – and the rest of the UK – is best placed to capitalise on the opportunities of Brexit.

The EU (Withdrawal) Act is in place, ensuring that our statute book will continue to function on exit. The Fisheries white paper was published recently, confirming that from 2020 we will be negotiating access to waters and fishing opportunities as an independent coastal state.

And in the past week the Customs and Trade Bills passed their third readings in the House of Commons – a significant step towards ensuring that we have the necessary powers and structures in place to operate an independent trade policy after we leave the EU. This means that for the first time in over 40 years the UK will have the chance to decide who we trade with and on what terms.

But there is more hard work to be done before we reap these rewards.

A lot of people are talking about a no-deal scenario, and we should be and are preparing for that.

But the best path to delivering Brexit – as well as the best outcome for the country – is to leave with a deal.

Not just any old deal though.

The UK government firmly believes the proposals published in our white paper earlier this month is the right Brexit deal for the UK and the EU, striking a new balance of rights and obligations that is fair to both sides.

That’s why we will be accelerating negotiations with the EU on the proposals and working hard to agree the terms of our future relationship alongside the Withdrawal Agreement.

Our proposals deliver on the referendum result by getting control of our money, borders and laws – and protect jobs and prosperity, while keeping our people safe and the precious Union of the United Kingdom together.

They will create a UK-EU free trade area which establishes a common rulebook for industrial goods and agricultural products. This will maintain common high standards in these areas, but also ensure that no new changes take place in future without the approval of UK parliament.

It’s an ambitious and comprehensive plan which respects what the UK government has heard from businesses about how they want to trade after Brexit.

I met senior business leaders in Edinburgh on the day the white paper was published, and their reaction was positive. Of course, they had questions, but it is clear to me that Scottish businesses want a concrete plan which maximises the opportunities of Brexit for their business.

My strong message to those who oppose the plan is this – the fact is no-one has a credible alternative.

Our plan protects jobs, supports growth and maintains security cooperation.

In all the debate around it, no other realistic suggestions have been put forward.

So while we are stepping up no-deal plans, it is clear to me it is now time to get behind the Prime Minister and for everyone to put all our energies into our negotiations with the EU on our proposals.

All sides must unite around the proposition and get the deal everyone needs to move forward.

David Mundell is the Scottish Secretary