We will quit single market, May says in Brexit speech

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Lancaster House in London
Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Lancaster House in London
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Britain will leave the European single market when it quits the European Union, Theresa May has said.

Mrs May said that her plans for Brexit cannot allow continued membership of the single market, which would require free movement of people and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Instead, she said that she will seek “the greatest possible access to the single market on a reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive trade agreement”.

Mrs May said that she wanted to remain part of a customs agreement with the remaining 27 EU states, but said she had an “open mind” over whether this would be through associate membership of the Customs Union or through some other arrangement.

Her announcement came in a high-profile speech in London setting out her objectives for post-Brexit Britain.

She also revealed that the final Brexit deal reached between the UK and European Union will be put to a vote of both Houses of Parliament.

Mrs May did not make clear whether a vote against the agreement would result in the UK remaining in the EU or in Britain crashing out of the 28-nation bloc without a deal.

Speaking at Lancaster House, Mrs May said: “When it comes to Parliament, there is one ... way in which I would like to provide certainty. I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.”

Under Article 50 of the EU treaties, Britain will have two years to negotiate a deal after it informs the European Council of its intention to quit - something which Mrs May has said she will do by the end of March.

Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has suggested that an agreement must be concluded by October 2018 to allow time for ratification before Britain leaves in March 2019, meaning that the Commons and Lords votes are likely to come during that six-month period.

Mrs May said that Britain will maintain “practical arrangements on law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material” with its former EU partners, as well as continuing to work as closely with European allies on foreign and defence policy as it now does with the EU.

Mrs May said the UK would regain control of its borders.

“We will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU. Because, while controlled immigration can bring great benefits, filling skill shortages, delivering public services, making British businesses the world beaters they often are, when the numbers get too high, public support in the system falters.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Today the Prime Minister changed the landscape.

“Ruling out membership of the Single Market has reduced options for maintaining a barrier-free trading relationship between the UK and the EU. But businesses will welcome the greater clarity and the ambition to create a more prosperous, open and global Britain, with the freest possible trade between the UK and the EU.

“The pressure is now on to deliver these objectives and achieve a smooth and orderly exit.

“Businesses want to make a success of Brexit but will be concerned about falling back on damaging WTO rules.

“They stand ready to support the negotiations to get the best possible deal for the UK by ensuring that the economic case is heard loud and clear.”

More reaction later and in tomorrow’s Lancashire Post