Theresa May confirms Britain will leave the single market

In a speech outlining her objectives for the upcoming negotiations, the Prime Minister said she wants to take this opportunity to make Britain stronger

Theresa May confirms Britain will leave the single market

Prime Minister Theresa May speaking at Lancaster House in London where she outlined her plans for Brexit. | Image: Kirsty Wigglesworth PA Wire/PA Images

British Prime Minister Theresa May confirmed Britain will leave the single market as part of Brexit. 

Speaking in Central London, she also confirmed the final deal between the UK and the EU will be put to a vote in the two houses of parliament. 

Calling it a great moment of national change, Mrs May said negotiations will focus on getting the right deal in Britain and abroad, as well as embracing economic reform.

The partnership Britain is seeking with the EU will be the pursuit of the "freest possible trade in good and services", but that "cannot mean membership of the single market".

Mrs May said Brexit is "no attempt to do harm to the EU itself" in a speech outlining her objectives for the upcoming negotiations.

"This is not a game", she said. "Now is not the time for opposition for opposition's sake."

The partnership Britain is seeking with the EU will be the pursuit of the "freest possible trade in good and services", but that "cannot mean membership of the single market".

"We will pursue bold and ambitious free trade agreement with EU" she said. Mrs May also confirmed Britain will not be required to contribute significant sums to the EU budget.

Calling it a great moment of national change, May said negotiations will focus on getting the right deal in Britain and abroad and embracing economic reform.

"June 23rd was not the moment Britain chose to step back from the world [...] I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interest of Britain. We will put the preservation of our precious union at the heart of everything we do."

Immigration

Mrs May continued to stress that Brexit means Britain is leaving the EU, but will not be leaving Europe in the lurch.

"You cannot control immigration overall, but we will control immigration", she said. "Britain is an open and tolerant country.

The focus for Britain will remain on continuing to "attract the brightest and best", but the immigration process must be managed properly so it serves the public interest.

"Controlled immigration can bring great benefits - but when the numbers get too high, public support for the system falters", she said.

Ireland

On Ireland, Mrs May said maintaining common travel area with Republic of Ireland will be an "important priority in talks ahead".

Before the speech, Sinn Féin MEP slammed the Prime Minister, saying she "does not care about Northern Ireland".

"The British government didn't give a damn about the people in the North of Ireland", she said. "For instance, the last British Irish Council meeting, she didn't even have the good grace to turn up, despite the fact she had told all of the ministers that there was going to be at least a negotiation at that level about how Scotland and the North of Ireland would be represented."

Meanwhile, fellow Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ni Riada said May’s hard Brexit stance will hit Ireland very hard.

"The problem for us at home, and this is people right across the counties of Ireland is that because of Brexit we've had a €150m loss to our farmers in the south", she said in reaction. "We have seen over €500m of a loss on the food and drinks industry.

"The knock-on effect is that we're [Ireland] going to be collateral damage [...] Now is the time for the Irish government to step up."

Brexit wishlist

Mrs May outlined her 12 priorities for negotiations with the EU:

  • Provide certainty about process of leaving the EU
  • Control of our own laws
  • Strengthen the Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom 
  • Maintain the common travel area with Ireland 
  • Control of immigration coming from the EU
  • Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU
  • Protect workers' rights 
  • Free trade with European markets through a free trade agreement
  • New trade agreements with other countries
  • The best place for science and innovation
  • Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism
  • A smooth orderly Brexit