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MPs Say The Government's White Paper Is "A Blueprint For Hard Brexit"

The Department for Exiting the European Union released its white paper on Brexit on Thursday, but MPs are worried by the lack of detail and accountability.

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MPs have raised concerns that the newly published Brexit white paper will give the government a "blank cheque for a hard Brexit".

Brexit secretary David Davis announced the plans in a speech to parliament on Thursday, and said that the government would aim to continue seeking a national consensus on the negotiations ahead.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour's shadow Brexit secretary, raised a line from the paper that said: "The government will... put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament."

Starmer said he wanted a "meaningful" vote, to which Davis replied that in all his time in parliament he'd never come across a vote that wasn't "meaningful".

However, other MPs expressed concern that the plan put forward in the white paper did not give enough of a say to parliament, as it offered a vote to MPs on the deal only after it had been made.

"The government must not be given a blank cheque for hard Brexit," Labour MP Chris Leslie said. Neil Carmichael, who is the chair of the Commons education select committee and one of Theresa May's own MPs, joined the calls for more parliamentary scrutiny.

"I’m looking very carefully at the amendments to ensure that parliament is given a meaningful debate and decision at the end of the two-year period," he told The Independent.

“I’m very keen for parliament to have that opportunity to assess and decide on any proposal – or no proposal – that may arise at the end of that two-year period. In short, I’m not going to sign a blank cheque".

The 77-page white paper focuses on the 12 principles May set out in a speech she gave in central London last month. They include "providing certainty and clarity", "strengthening the union", and "securing new trade agreements with other countries".

The document hints at a transitional deal between the UK and the EU as, it says, it is "in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability", though the government says it hopes "to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded".

The government also says it may end up keeping some single market arrangements "in certain areas" in the post-Brexit deal, "as it makes no sense to start again from scratch when the UK and the remaining Member States have adhered to the same rules for so many years".

Several cross-party MPs complained that the white paper was too short and did not offer enough information on the deal the government intended to get from Brussels.

EU White Paper woefully lacking in detail and content. Like high school assessment stretched to make it look like you'd hit your word count.

#BrexitWhitePaper totally unrealistic. Fails to acknowledge scale of the task ahead or damage of leaving single market and customs union

The paper explains that the UK is currently "considering very carefully" its options regarding immigration and how to control it further, but does not expand on what the options are.

It gives few details on what the situation will be like between Britain and Ireland after the UK leaves the EU, but says the government is aiming to find a way to keep "the border as seamless and frictionless as possible". It goes on to clarify that devolved administrations will not have existing decision-making powers taken away from them.

The paper also raises the question of EU nationals living in the UK and vice versa, saying that "securing their status is one of this government’s early priorities for the forthcoming negotiations" – offering no more than May did in her speech earlier in the year. It sticks to the same details May gave on the customs union, saying it would like Britain to be outside it, but able to agree a "new customs arrangement".

Marie Le Conte is a politics and media reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Marie Le Conte at marie.leconte@buzzfeed.com.

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