Free movement of EU citizens to the UK could continue under a post-Brexit transitional deal, the UK Government said in a white paper on its approach to upcoming talks with Brussels.
The Brexit white paper, which MPs had demanded ahead of a final vote next week on legislation to trigger the UK’s exit from the EU, also confirms the UK will have to respect the judgements of a “dispute resolution mechanism” in any future trade agreement with Europe.
The 77-page document commits the government to “secure the specific interests” of devolved nations, but does not give any further detail on new powers returning from Brussels to the Scottish Parliament after Brexit.
It also does not confirm whether Holyrood will get a vote on the Great Repeal Bill, which will transfer EU laws and regulations into UK statute. Scottish Secretary David Mundell said he “anticipates” that MSPs will get to vote on a legislative consent motion on the bill.
Talks between the UK and devolved administrations will “intensify”, including direct talks with each nation discussions alongside the four-government Joint Ministerial Committee, which meets again next week.
Announcing the paper in the House of Commons, Brexit secretary David Davis said: “A never-ending transitional status is emphatically not what we seek, but a phased process of implementation for new arrangements—whether immigration controls, customs systems, the way we operate and co-operate on criminal and civil justice matters, or future regulatory and legal frameworks for business—will be necessary for both sides.”
Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer called the paper “a wish list, not an action plan” and said it offered “no certainty” to EU citizens living in the UK.
The Scottish Government’s Brexit secretary, Michael Russell, said the UK Government had to show it was taking demands for Scotland to be allowed to stay in the single market seriously, ahead of the next meeting of the JMC.
“The document talks up the prospect of no deal being possible and a consequent ‘cliff edge’ of disruption,” Mr Russell said. “That would be catastrophic for Scotland and the UK but the hardest Brexiteers appear to be forcing the pace on the matter.
“There is also no commitment at all – unlike in the EU referendum campaign last year – to the transfer of powers to Scotland.”