Brexit news: May rules out single market and free movement

Theresa May, in a photo from the CBI conference, illustrates a 17 Jan 2016 article about Brexit

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In her first detailed account of the UK's negotiating position as it prepares to trigger the process to leave the EU, British Prime Minister Theresa May said in a speech in London that she had ruled out continued membership of the single market because it would mean continuing to accept the free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Brexit: UK to seek a "new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement"

Instead, the prime minister said she would seek a customs agreement with the remaining 27 EU states - while not necessarily remaining part of the Customs Union - and would seek the "greatest possible access" to the single market through a "new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement".The latter, she said, could take in elements of single market arrangements in areas such as financial services and the automotive industry.
Theresa May, British Prime Minister, outlines her plans for exit from the EU on 17 January 2017

Brexit: PM suggests UK taxes could be slashed to lure investment from Europe

And she suggested the UK could slash taxes to poach investment from Europe if the EU failed to offer the UK a good trade deal. "We would still be able to trade with Europe. We would be free to strike trade deals across the world," she said."And we would have the freedom to set the 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."
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Brexit: Control of borders

Mrs May, who repeated her aim of reaching an early deal to secure the status of British expats living in the EU and those from the continent currently residing in Britain, insisted the UK must regain control of its borders."We will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU. Because, while controlled immigration can bring great benefits, filling skill shortages, delivering public services, making British businesses the world beaters they often are, when the numbers get too high, public support in the system falters," she said.Although Mrs May said that she had already discussed the fate of 1.2 million Britons estimated to be living on the Continent and the three million EU expats living in Britain, her comments did little to assuage Nicholas Hatton, founder of the3million pressure group, which campaigns on behalf of Europeans in the UK.“EU citizens are living in limbo and Theresa May has done very little to reassure them today,” he said. “I am very disappointed that the prime minister didn’t take this opportunity in front of an international audience to unilaterally guarantee our rights of residence and we will continue to campaign to obtain a firm guarantee before Article 50. We are not bargaining chips. We are human beings.”

Brexit: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

The PM also said that the UK would work to maintain the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland and would retain "practical arrangements on law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material" with the remaining EU nations, as well as continuing to work closely with European allies on foreign and defence policy.An Irish government spokesman in Dublin welcomed the prime minister’s commitment to maintaining the common travel area between Britain and Ireland, as well as her promise that there would be no “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.He also said there were now “economic opportunities that may arise for Ireland” following Mrs May's announcement that the UK would quit the single market and, perhaps, the Customs Union.“Bids for the EU agencies currently located in London – the European Medicines Board and the European Banking Authority have already been announced and the state enterprise agencies are actively pursuing opportunities for increased investment, business and job creation in Ireland,” he said. “Economic opportunities for Ireland will be pursued vigorously."
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Brexit: Deal will go before Houses of Parliament

In her speech, Mrs May also revealed: "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." However, she did not say whether a government defeat would result in the Brexit deal being scrapped.

Brexit: International reaction to Prime Minister Theresa May's statement

Reacting to the speech, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, said: "We welcome that the British prime minister today sketched out her government’s ideas about its departure and at last created a bit more clarity about the British plans. She has underlined that Great Britain is seeking a positive and constructive partnership, a friendship, with a strong EU. That is good."We also want a relationship that is as good, close and trusting, and hope for constructive negotiations with this goal in mind. But our line remains: negotiations will only begin when Great Britain has officially announced its desire to leave. Tomorrow we will vote in our Brexit cabinet committee on the German position during the upcoming negotiations.It is in Germany’s interest and in the interest of Europe to strengthen the cohesion of the European Union of 27 members and preserve the unity of the single market."
Adam Marshall, Director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit speech
Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, did not feel Mrs May’s speech had given business much clarity about the future. "In business, what you achieve in a negotiation - not what you bid for - is what really matters," he said."The Brexit process is no different. While businesses now have a clearer sense of the prime minister’s top-line priorities, they will come away from her speech knowing little more about the likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations than they did yesterday."The simple fact is that businesses all across the UK are carrying on. Directly-affected companies are being pragmatic, and are preparing for a range of possible outcomes."But Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, applauded Mrs May’s speech. "We welcome the level of detail provided in the PM’s speech and her commitment to providing certainty wherever possible, which is absolutely vital for business if they are to navigate and make the best of Brexit."Whatever the shape of the final trade deal, a smooth and orderly departure is in the whole country’s interests, so businesses will support the commitment to a phased process of implementation. While we do not expect a running commentary, firms hope to get periodic updates to maintain confidence as we make our way towards the exit."We now know that we will be leaving the single market, and while there will be firms who regret this, they will at least be able to plan on that basis. Business leaders will be heartened by the prime minister’s strong argument for the value of free trade, an argument currently being made by all too few global leaders."For more news and features about the impact of Brexit in the UK and across the globe, visit our Brexit section.The following sections may also be of interest: Enterprise and International AssignmentsAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  Get access to our free Global Mobility Toolkit Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centre