Prime minister Theresa May has confirmed the UK will leave the European single market and set out plans to pursue a “bold and ambitious” free trade agreement with the bloc.
May said she will seek “the greatest possible access to the single market on a reciprocal basis, through a new, comprehensive and bold free trade agreement”. She wants a customs agreement with the EU, and for Britain to have tariff-free access to EU markets.
“Britain wants to remain a good friend and neighbour to Europe,” she said.
The UK is not prepared to pay “huge sums” for access, she added, although it might still make some contributions towards some programmes.
She wants “frictionless” trade without customs barriers. For example, the UK could become an associate member of the customs union. ”It is not the means that matter but the ends,” she argued.
The prime minister is aiming to reach agreement on the Brexit terms within two years, and then phase in any changes to allow businesses to plan. She confirmed that the proposed deal will be put to a vote in both the House of Lords and House of Commons.
Some people have suggested that the EU may try to punish the UK for voting to leave the EU, to discourage other countries from following suit.
But May said she would walk away if negotiations turned sour. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she said, adding that this would be an “act of calamitous self-harm” for the EU.
May’s 12 Brexit objectives:
- Provide certainty about the process of leaving the EU
- Control of our own laws
- Strengthen the union between the four nations of the UK
- Maintain the common travel area with Ireland
- Control of immigration coming from the EU
- Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU
- Protect workers’ rights
- We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU
- New trade agreements with other countries
- Become the best place for science and innovation
- Co-operate with European allies in the fight against crime and terrorism
- A phased process of implementation