British Prime Minister Theresa May has today said the UK “cannot possibly” remain within the European single market.
Mrs May promised to end to the UK’s “vast contributions” to the EU but also pledged to push for the “greatest possible” access to the single market following Brexit. She added that it was not her intention to “undermine” the EU or the single market.
In her much-awaited speech, she also announced that the UK Parliament would get a vote on the final deal agreed between the UK and the European Union.
In her speech, The Prime Minister announced the UK’s 12 priorities for Brexit negotiations.
- Maintaining the common travel area between the UK and Irish Republic
- Tariff-free trade with the EU
- A customs agreement with the EU
- Continued “practical” sharing of intelligence and policing information
- “Control” of immigration rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU
Tariff-Free Trade with Europe
The Prime Minister insisted that she “wants Britain to be able to negotiate its own trade agreements but I also want tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade to be as frictionless as possible. That means I do not want Britain to be part of the common commercial policy.
Mrs May reiterated that the Government would not be providing a “blow-by-blow” account of its exit negotiations which will commence after Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked by the end of March 2017.
She warned the EU against a “punitive” reaction to Brexit, as it would mean “calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend”.
She said: “This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states.
“It should give British companies the maximum possible freedom to trade with and operate within European markets and let European businesses do the same in Britain. But I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market.”
EU leaders have said the UK cannot “cherry pick” access to the single market while restricting the free movement of people.
On a Customs Union, Mrs May said, “I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU, whether that means we must reach a completely new customs agreement, become an associate member of the customs union in some way or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position.
Immigration and EU Nationals
Mrs may stated that EU Nationals will continue to be welcomed in Britain. “You will still be welcome in this country, as we hope our citizens will be in yours. We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain and the rights of the British nationals in other member states as early as we can. Our guiding principle must be to ensure that as we leave the European Union, no new barriers to living or doing business within our own union are created,” she said.
However, she added that “Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe and that is what we will deliver”.
A Brighter Future
Addressing an audience including foreign ambassadors in central London, Mrs May said the UK had “voted for a brighter future for our country” and would become “stronger, fairer, more united” after Brexit.
She said the UK’s history was “profoundly internationalist” and would remain so.
The prime minister said the UK had often been seen as “an awkward member state”, but the EU had not demonstrated “enough flexibility on many important matters for a majority of British voters”.
She told the remaining 27 EU member states: “We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.”
Mrs May called for a “new and equal partnership” with the EU, “not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out”.
“We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave,” she said.
People who voted Brexit “did so with their eyes open”, the prime minister said, calling the vote a “great moment of national change”.