Theresa May is to ask EU leaders to give the UK a trade deal like the one we have now - but without freedom of movement.

The plan for a new trade deal allowing existing trading arrangements “to continue when we leave the EU” is revealed in the Government’s long-awaited White Paper on Brexit.

Brexit Secretary David Davis confirmed the UK will leave the Single Market, which currently ensures there are almost no restrictions on trade with the other 27 member states.

Instead, he told MPs the UK would negotiate “a bold and ambitious free trade and customs agreement that should ensure the most free and frictionless trade in goods and services that is possible”.

And the White Paper, a 77-page document setting out proposals for quitting the EU, says that Ministers hope the new trade deal will be based on the arrangements that already exist.

Brexit Secretary David Davis speaks in the House of Commons

It states: “The UK already has zero tariffs on goods and a common regulatory framework with the EU Single Market. This position is unprecedented in previous trade negotiations.

“Unlike other trade negotiations, this is not about bringing two divergent systems together. It is about finding the best way for the benefit of the common systems and frameworks, that currently enable UK and EU businesses to trade with and operate in each others’ markets, to continue when we leave the EU through a new comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.”

It continues: “That agreement may take in elements of current Single Market arrangements in certain areas 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. Such an arrangement would be on a fully reciprocal basis and in our mutual interests.”

The paper also states: “Our new partnership should allow for tariff-free trade in goods that is as frictionless as possible between the UK and the EU Member States.”

However, the White Paper confirms that freedom of movement will end.

It states: “In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of long term net migration in the UK, and that sheer volume has given rise to public concern about pressure on public services, like schools and our infrastructure, especially housing, as well as placing downward pressure on wages for people on the lowest incomes.

“The public must have confidence in our ability to control immigration. It is simply not possible to control immigration overall when there is unlimited free movement of people to the UK from the EU.”

Mr Davis insisted that Britain entered the negotiations which the Government intends to trigger by the end of March in “a position of strength”.

Protestors demonstrate against Brexit in Parliament Square, opposite the Houses of Parliament

And the Minister - who campaigned to quit the EU in last year’s referendum, unlike Theresa May - told the House of Commons: “The referendum result was not a vote to turn our back on Europe. It was a vote of confidence in the UK’s ability to succeed in the world and an expression of optimism that our best days are still to come.”

Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told the Commons there was “nothing” in the white paper to resolve the position of UK nationals living in other EU countries.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron criticised Labour for voting for Article 50, which allows the Government to begin the process of leaving the EU, on Thursday.

He said: “All we’ve seen on Brexit this week is a white paper from the Tories and a white flag from Labour.

“Both are now committed to a hard Brexit that will do untold damage to our economy.”

What's in the White Paper

Here are the key points from the Government’s White Paper, called United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, setting out its strategy for leaving the European Union:


The UK will leave the single market but seek a free trade agreement to ensure the “most frictionless trade possible” in goods and services with the EU.

It will try to strike a new customs agreement, which could involve leaving the tariff-free customs union completely or remaining a partial signatory to some aspects.

Because Britain already has zero tariffs on goods and common regulations with the EU, a new trade deal could “take in elements” of current single market arrangements.

UK taxpayers will no longer pay “vast” contributions into the Brussels budget but there may be certain EU programmes where the country has an interest in making an “appropriate” payment to take part.

The Government will attempt to strike trade deals with countries around the world.


Britain will regain full control of the number of people coming to the country from the EU and free movement of people will no longer apply.

The new immigration system will be designed to help fill skills shortages and welcome “genuine” students.

But any new approach could be “phased in” to give businesses and individuals time to plan and prepare for the new arrangements.

Businesses and communities will be consulted throughout and Parliament will have an “important role” in shaping a new system, which is likely to be brought forward in its own legislation.

The rights of EU nationals living in the UK

Ministers will seek to secure the rights of around 2.8 million EU nationals who live in the UK as soon as possible in negotiations.

But they will only do so when similar rights are guaranteed for the one million British immigrants in continental Europe.

The Government said it wanted to resolve the issue before formal negotiations but not all EU member states supported its approach.


Britain will leave the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) but seek to set up separate resolution mechanisms for things like trade disputes.

Ministers say arbitration systems are common in trade deals the EU strikes with other countries, such as with Canada or South Korea.

Avoiding a cliff-edge Brexit

The Government is likely to phase in new rules after leaving the EU to give businesses and the public sector time to plan and prepare.

Ministers will seek to agree a deal on the new relationship within the two-year formal exit process under Article 50 and then have a “phased process of implementation” before being completely free of Brussels regulations.

Security and defence

Britain will continue to collaborate with the EU to fight crime and terror, with a focus on operational and practical cross-border co-operation, while continuing to back European interests around the world, including potential support for sanctions.

The Irish border

The UK will seek to maintain the soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by protecting the Common Travel Area, which was set up in 1923, long before the EU.

The Government wants to see as “seamless and frictionless” trade and movement of people between Northern Ireland and Ireland as possible.

Workers’ rights

The Government will protect workers’ rights enshrined in EU law and attempt to enhance them as it takes back powers from Brussels.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The UK Government will seek to strengthen the Union by devolving powers previously covered by EU laws in areas where the home nations already have some competence, such as agriculture, the environment and transport.

Providing clarity

Ministers will provide certainty wherever it can to reassure business, the public sector and the public during the negotiation talks.

The final deal will be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.

Science and innovation

Britain will seek an agreement to continue to collaborate with European countries on science, research and technology initiatives.

Air travel

The Government will attempt to get a deal so Britons can continue to enjoy affordable flights, as they do in the EU’s internal aviation market.

Financial services

The Government says it will seek the “freest possible” trade in financial services between the UK and EU, pointing out that provisions exist for countries outside the bloc to do business across the EU, in a similar way to how “passporting” arrangements work for the City currently.


Leaving the Common Agricultural Policy, which at £58 billion in 2014 took up nearly 40% of the EU’s budget, will give the UK “a significant opportunity to design new, better and more efficient policies for delivering sustainable and productive farming, land management and rural communities”.