Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain will make clean break from EU

By Allen Cone  |  Jan. 17, 2017 at 9:48 AM
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Jan. 17 (UPI) -- Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday described plans for the United Kingdom to make a clean break from the European Union rather than "a soft Brexit."

In a speech, May opposed a proposal for a "half-in, half-out" situation.

"We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave," she said.

May rejected calls for quasi-membership in the EU, but said Britain will continue to have strong ties with Europe and other nations worldwide.

"We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe," she said during her speech in front of a white backdrop emblazoned with the words "A Global Britain." In the audience sat several foreign ambassadors.

May said Britain will leave the single market — which guarantees the free flow of goods, services and people across boundaries — and the customs union, which deals with trade between Europe and other nations.

"It would, to all intents and purposes, mean not leaving the EU at all," she said about a single market continuance. "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."

But trade with European nations will continue, she said.

"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," she said. "But I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market."

She also said Brexit negotiations will include continued "practical" sharing of intelligence and security information, tariff-free trade with the EU and "control" of immigration rights for EU nations in Britain and vice verse.

The talks are set to begin after Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty is invoked by the end of March. Britain then will have two years to negotiate the terms of its exit with the 27 EU members that remain.

"We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends," she said. "We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship."

Theresa May was appointed prime minister in July of 2016 following the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who had led the campaign for Britain to remain in the European Union. Britain voted 52 percent to 48 percent in the June 23, 2016 referendum to leave the union.

"Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it -- Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults -- and unite to make a success of Brexit and build a truly global Britain," May said.

Tim Farron, leader of the pro-EU Liberal Democrats, said May was working toward "a destructive, hard Brexit" and said the consequences of this "will be felt by millions of people through higher prices, greater instability and rising fuel costs."

"Should it become apparent that you can get full access to the single market even if you can choose certain things then we risk that every country cherry-picks," said German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a Monday night speech to business leaders.

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