LONDON — Theresa May just confirmed that Britain will be leaving the single market as part of its withdrawal from the European Union.
The prime minister told an audience of foreign diplomats and ambassadors that she will terminate Britain’s membership of the free-trade area in order to have full control over immigration from the EU.
This was also confirmed by Chancellor Phillip Hammond, who told the House of Commons on Tuesday morning that Britain will no longer be in the single market once Brexit is finalised.
May assured her European counterparts that Britain will remain a “best friend” to the continent but added that she will not seek a Brexit deal that leaves the country “half-in, half out” of the European Union.
Speaking at Lancaster House, Westminster this morning, the Conservative Party leader also confirmed that Britain will be breaking away from the European Court of Justice (ECJ), meaning EU law will no longer apply once Brexit is formally completed.
The prime minister also confirmed that both houses of parliament will get a final vote on the deal that her government reaches with the EU before it is put into effect.
The prime minister said: “I want this UK to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer and more outward -looking than ever before… Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours.”
May’s speech was the first clear signal that Britain under her leadership will pursue a clean break from the European Union once exit talks officially get underway, commonly referred to as “hard Brexit.” It represents a victory for staunch Brexiteers in the Tory party, like Brexit ministers David Davis and Liam Fox, who have long advocated a complete break away from the 28-nation bloc and its multilateral institutions.
Remainers fear leaving the single market will inflict serious damage to the economy and personal finances of working-class people nationwide. Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “This speech could have been written by Peter Bone, delivered by Nigel Farage and will no doubt be cheered on by Jeremy Corbyn.
“You can call this Brexit clean, red, white and blue, or whatever you want. But this doesn’t disguise the fact that it will be a destructive, Hard Brexit and the consequences will be felt by millions of people through higher prices, greater instability and rising fuel costs.”
A YouGov poll published this week found that controlling EU immigration to the UK was more important to Brits than remaining a member of the single market, suggesting that although unpopular with numerous pro-Remain MPs, May’s “hard” approach to leaving the EU is in step with the desires of the general public.
The prime minister confirmed that Britain will be abandoning the single market in the same venue that former Tory premier Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech endorsing the values of the same free-trade area 28 years ago.
May dismissed the possibility of Britain adopting an existing model — like the Norway-style model — as its Brexit strategy. “We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave,” she said.
She also said that “preserving” the United Kingdom will be a priority as Britain enters exit negotiations with the EU. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has threatened to call a second independence referendum if Scotland’s demands for a unique relationship with the 28-nation bloc aren’t met.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule later this month that May must secure parliamentary approval before invoking Article 50 and initiating Britain’s departure from the EU. This means that MPs who oppose the PM’s plans to remove the country from the single market will have an opportunity to try and block Brexit getting underway.
This is a developing story…
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