Brexit speech: Britain will sacrifice access to the single market

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool)

(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, pool) - Credit: PA

Britain will pursue a Hard Brexit and quit the European single market when it leaves the EU, Theresa May has confirmed.

Outlining her plans for Brexit the Prime Minister said she was willing to sacrifice access to the single market if it requires the free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

She said she would instead seek 'the greatest possible access to the single market on a reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive trade agreement'.

The PM added that she wanted to remain part of a customs agreement with the remaining 27 EU states either as an associate member or through some other arrangement.

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

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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.

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.

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Speaking at Lancaster House, May said: '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.'

The Prime Minister seemingly added weight to the threat that Britain could seek to become a tax haven, city-state nation much like Singapore claiming that even without a trade deal with Europe the country could prosper.

She said: 'Because we would still be able to trade with Europe. We would still be free to strike trade deals across the world. And we would have the freedom to set competitive tax rates, and embrace the policies that would attract the world's best companies and biggest investors to Britain.

'And if we were excluded from accessing the single market, we would be free to change the basis of Britain's economic model. But for the EU, it would mean new barriers to trade with one of the biggest economies in the world.'

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 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.

The PM said remaining in the single market would mean 'to all intents and purposes' not leaving the EU.

'As a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU.

'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.'

Professor Anthony Grayling, Philosopher and Master of New College of the Humanities, said: 'The Lancaster House speech told us nothing new, other than confirming fears that the Brexit would be 'hard' but full of impossible contradictions which depend on the good-will – and why should there be any? – of 27 EU states. It was obvious from the outset that the unnecessary, ill-advised, badly-framed and 'advisory only' referendum which the May government treats as if it were binding and as if it had a supermajority in support of it (whereas only a minority of the electorate voted for it), would result in a mess of epic proportions. And Mrs May's speech confirms it.'

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