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'Best days are yet to come': UK outlines its official plan for Brexit negotiations

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to deliver a speech on the government's plans for Brexit at Lancaster House in London on January 17, 2017.
Kirsty Wigglesworth | AFP | Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives to deliver a speech on the government's plans for Brexit at Lancaster House in London on January 17, 2017.

The U.K. government gave a little more clarity on its Brexit negotiations Thursday, publishing a new official report that will aid discussions by lawmakers over the coming weeks.

Britain's so-called Brexit secretary, David Davis, presented the update to the House of Commons Thursday and confirmed that the U.K. will leave the EU's single market - a tariff-free trade agreement enjoyed by EU member states.

He also said the government will prepare the ground for new trade deals. This will include negotiating new deals with the WTO, he said, but no new deals will be made until the U.K. has completed its departure of the European Union. Davis also confirmed that the U.K. will regain control of its borders as the U.K. takes back control of its laws.

"Our best days are yet to come," Davis told the House of Commons. He also emphasized the need to move quickly with negotiations: "A never-ending transitional status is emphatically not what we seek but a phased implementation process … Will be necessary for both sides."

Described by 10 Downing Street as "substantial", the white paper - a type of government report - is now available to the public and outlines plans for withdrawing from the EU. It was proposed as a concession to U.K. lawmakers who had called for greater clarity on the government's plans for the Brexit negotiations. It gives all lawmakers the ability to scrutinize the plan the government has for the discussions with the EU.

Thursday's paper builds on a speech given by Prime Minister Theresa May in January, setting out the 12 principles which will guide the government "in fulfilling the democratic will of the people of the U.K."

1. Providing certainty and clarity

2. Taking control of our own laws

3. Strengthening the Union

4. Protecting our strong historic ties with Ireland and maintaining the Common Travel Area

5. Controlling immigration

6. Securing rights for EU nationals in the U.K. and U.K. nationals in the EU

7. Protecting workers' rights

8. Ensuring free trade with European markets

9. Securing new trade agreements with other countries

10. Ensuring the United Kingdom remains the best place for science and innovation

11. Cooperating in the fight against crime and terrorism

12. Delivering a smooth, orderly exit from the EU

According to Reuters, several opposition lawmakers accused the government of keeping them in the dark over negotiations with the EU.

"For months we've been calling for a plan... now there's a White Paper too late in the day to ask meaningful questions.. That is completely unacceptable," Kier Starmer, Brexit spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, was quoted as saying.

The paper's release comes alongside the so-called "Brexit bill" which will likely conclude with May being given the authority to trigger "Article 50" which will begin formal negotiations with the European Union.

This bill received its first airing on Wednesday but will be debated vigorously for the next few days by politicians and will likely see amendments. Wednesday's vote saw lawmakers rule 498 to 114 in favor of the bill. Just one member of the ruling Conservative party, Ken Clarke, voted against the bill.

Of the 114 dissidents, 47 were within the opposition Labour party, despite calls from its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to honor the vote of the British public. A majority of 51.9 percent of the U.K. voted to leave the EU in last June's referendum.

This opposition from pro-European politicians suggests not only further debate on the government's Brexit plans, but also further disruption in the already divided Labour party.

The bill will have to pass through members of parliament (MPs) again next week and then go to a vote in the House of Lords later this month if May is to fulfill her aims of invoking Article 50 by the end of March.