January 17, 2017
Theresa May has promised a clean break with the EU, saying that Britain would not “seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave”.
In a much anticipated speech outlining her Brexit objectives, the prime minister said that Britain would seek “a new and equal partnership” with the other 27 countries in the EU — not “anything that leaves us half-in, half-out”.
As she started speaking, Philip Hammond, the chancellor, appeared to confirm that Britain would leave the single market.
“We can’t be members of the Single Market because of the red lines around the four freedoms [of people, goods, services and capital] that other EU members have set,” he told the House of Commons.
‘They have to recognise our red lines, we have to recognise theirs, and then we have to find a pragmatic solution that works for all sides.”
The pound jumped higher after Mrs May started her speech, accelerating after early gains. Sterling was as much as 1.9 per cent higher at $1.2278 before easing to trade 1.6 per cent stronger at $1.2250.
Mrs May’s speech was billed by aides her “Brexit plan” — the most detailed statement she would make on Britain’s negotiating objectives before triggering Article 50, the EU’s exit clause, by the end of March.
She confirmed that both houses of parliament would have a vote on the final Brexit deal – expected in early 2019. It is unclear what would happen if either house were to reject the deal.
The prime minister struck a conciliatory tone, and distanced herself from Donald Trump’s apparent enthusiasm for the broader disintegration of the EU, stating it “would not be in the best interests of Britain” for it to fail.
Yet she added that British voters had chosen Brexit “with their eyes open”, reiterating her stance that the result of June’s referendum is irreversible. “It was the moment we chose to build a truly global Britain,” she told an audience including ambassadors, high commissioners and her own Brexit negotiating team at London’s Lancaster House.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on whether the Article 50 process needs the prior approval of parliament and of devolved administrations. Mrs May has said that the March deadline will not be postponed, whatever the court’s ruling.
Taking Britain out of the single market contrasts with the Conservatives’ 2015 election manifesto, in which the party pledged, “We say: yes to the Single Market”.
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP who won a by-election last month by campaigning against Brexit, said Mrs May had “no mandate to damage jobs, sink the pound further and increase prices in the shops by leaving the Single Market.”
Additional reporting by Kate Allen
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