The United Kingdom has published a 98-page white paper that outlines the country’s vision for the U.K.’s post-Brexit relations with the European Union.

The white paper envisions a future where the U.K. and EU would negotiate visa-free travel arrangements, establish intra-corporate transfer agreements and promote student mobility, and where the U.K. would maintain its open border with Ireland. Prime Minister Theresa May said in an introduction to the white paper that the government was working to fulfill the mandate of voters while still maintaining a strong relationship with EU member states.

“Our proposal is comprehensive,” she wrote. “It is ambitious. And it strikes the balance we need – between rights and obligations. It would ensure that we leave the EU, without leaving Europe.”

The white paper is split into sections on economic relations, security partnership, EU-U.K. cooperation and institutional arrangements. Among other key provisions on immigration, the document said:

  • The U.K. would end freedom of movement with the EU after a transition period that would last through December 2020. The U.K. would “seek reciprocal mobility arrangements” with the EU, in line with agreements the country would reach with other close trading partners.
  • The U.K. would work to establish travel arrangements with the EU such that U.K. and EU nationals would be able to travel to each other’s countries for short-stay business or tourism without obtaining a visa. These arrangements would only permit paid work in “limited and clearly defined circumstances” in line with the U.K.’s current business visa policy.
  • The U.K. would work to establish similar reciprocal provisions for intra-corporate transfers, aiming to permit U.K. and EU-based companies to “train staff, move them between offices and plants and to deploy expertise where it is needed.” These arrangements would also be based on existing arrangements that the U.K. currently has with some non-EU countries.
  • The U.K. would prioritize mobility for students and young people to allow them to access “world leading universities and the cultural experiences” in the U.K. and EU.
  • The U.K. would maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland, such that the border between the Republic of Ireland and the U.K. would remain open and that Irish nationals would enjoy a status in the U.K. that would be distinct from other EU nationals.
  • The U.K. would honor a previously reached agreement that the 3.5 million EU nationals in the U.K. and the 800,000 U.K. nationals in the EU will be able to “move, live and work on the same basis as now” through the end of the transition period.

BAL Analysis: The white paper is the U.K.’s most detailed indication to date of how the U.K. would like to shape its post-Brexit relations with the EU. Still, it is not clear how the politics will play out in the U.K., where May has come under sharp criticism from elements within her own party who favor a cleaner break with the EU, i.e., a “hard Brexit.” Nor is it clear how the EU will respond the U.K.’s proposals. Some of the proposals are still lacking in specifics, with the white paper saying “details of the UK’s future immigration system will be set out in due course.” BAL will continue following Brexit-related developments and will provide updates to clients as negotiations continue.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact

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