Prime Minister Theresa May has ruled out remaining in the single market as Britain negotiates an exit from the EU.
In a much-hyped speech, the PM said being a member of the single market would “to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all”.
“That is why both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the single market,” May said.
“So we do not seek membership of the single market. Instead, we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.”
May added that the agreement with the EU could take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas, such as freedom to provide financial services across national borders.
“And because we will no longer be members of the single market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget. There may be some specific European programmes in which we might want to participate. If so, and this will be for us to decide, it is reasonable that we should make an appropriate contribution. But the principle is clear: the days of Britain making vast contributions to the European Union every year will end.”
The Prime Minister used the speech to outline 12 objectives for Britain’s negotiations to exit the European Union, including rights for EU nationals in Britain, free trade with European markets and new trade agreements with other countries.
The main points from the 12 ambitions for the UK:
- Certainty. May confirmed that Parliament will have a say on the final deal agreed between the UK and EU, with a vote in both Houses.
- Control over own laws. “We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast,” the Prime Minister said.
- Control of immigration. May said Britain was an “open and tolerant” country which will always want immigration, especially of the high-skilled variety, but numbers must be brought under control. “Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.”
- Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU. “We want 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 we can,” May said.
- Free trade with European markets. The Prime Minister confirmed the UK would no longer be a member of the single market. The priority will be to pursue “a bold and ambitious” free trade agreement with the European Union.
- New trade agreements with other countries. “Because important though our trade with the EU is and will remain, it is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world,” May said. She added that she also wanted tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be as “frictionless” as possible. The Prime Minister also wants Britain to be free to establish its own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organisation.
Other objectives were to strengthen the union between the four nations of the United Kingdom; maintain the common travel area with Ireland; protect workers’ rights; making the UK the best place for science and innovation; cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism; and a smooth, orderly Brexit.
“We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success,” May said, concluding the speech. “Because we are a great, global nation with so much to offer Europe and so much to offer the world.”
She added: “Business isn’t calling to reverse the result, but planning to make a success of it. The House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly for us to get on with it. And the overwhelming majority of people – however they voted – want us to get on with it too. So that is what we will do.”