Theresa May has laid out a 12-point plan for the UK’s departure from the European Union.
In January’s much anticipated speech, the Prime Minister revealed for the first time some key details about the UK’s approach to negotiations with the EU:
Mrs May confirmed the UK would not seek membership of the single market after leaving the EU.
Instead, the UK will push for a new free trade agreement, giving it “the greatest possible access” to the single market.
She also indicated the UK’s relationship with the customs union would change.
Under the customs union, EU countries do not impose tariffs on each other’s goods, while all imposing the same tariff on goods imported from outside the EU.
But the PM said she did not want the country to be “bound” by the shared external tariffs.
Instead, the UK would be “striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries”.
The PM referred to her six year tenure as Home Secretary, stating that immigration cannot be controlled overall “when there is free movement to Britain from Europe.”
The government has previously indicated that there would be restrictions on migration from the EU following the Brexit process, but precisely what form this would take has not been confirmed.
Mrs May pointed out that the UK will continue “to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain” but in a reference to a ‘clear message’ from the public before and during the referendum campaign, said that “Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said consideration is being given to the requirement that migrants must have a work permit before coming to work in the UK, with ministers able to prioritise different sectors.
Mrs May said she wanted to “guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states”, as early as possible.
But she indicated that while most EU leaders favour an agreement that gives people the certainty they want straight away, some do not, a challenge to which the PM called for a resolution as soon as possible.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the UK will “take back control of our laws”, thus bringing an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain, saying that “we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.”
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Reaction to the speech
Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn argued that the PM still needed to “be clearer” about her long-term objectives, and that she wanted to “have her cake and eat it” over the single market.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s chief negotiator, took to Twitter to welcome the Prime Minister’s “clarity”, but warned that “the days of UK cherry-picking and Europe a la carte are over.”
Germany’s Die Welt newspaper accused Mrs May of “leading Great Britain into isolation” with her plan for a ‘hard’ Brexit.
Mrs May faced opposition from SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon over the UK’s withdrawal from the single market. Ms Sturgeon told the BBC that a second Scottish independence referendum was now “undoubtedly” closer, with some sources saying that another referendum was “all but inevitable”.
Many business leaders welcomed Mrs May’s clarity and the degree of certainty on some areas of the 12-point plan, but pointed out that other areas remained vague.
CBI Director-General Carolyn Fairburn said that ruling out membership of the single market “has reduced options for maintaining a barrier-free trading relationship between the UK and the EU”, but added that 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”.
Adam Marshall, Director of the British Chambers of Commerce, said it was vital that Brexit “must not become all-consuming”, urging the government to focus on “having the right skills, infrastructure and business environment across the UK”.
The PM revealed that the final Brexit deal reached between the UK and the EU will be put to a vote in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
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