May makes her Brexit stance clear

UK seeks new trade deal with EU

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

BRI­TAIN will leave the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket when it ex­its the Euro­pean Union, Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May said yes­ter­day, putting an end to spec­u­la­tion that Lon­don might try to seek a “soft Brexit”.

In a long-awaited speech in which she sought to de­fine the coun­try’s future as a global player that aims to trade freely far be­yond Europe, May said the fi­nal exit deal would be put to Par­lia­ment for a vote.

That prom­ise helped re­vive the pound on cur­rency mar­kets. Ster­ling, which has traded at the low­est lev­els against the US dollar for more than three decades, rose dur­ing May’s speech, hit­ting a day high.

May said she would seek an equal part­ner­ship with the EU but that she would not adopt mod­els al­ready used by other coun­tries that have free trade agree­ments with the bloc.

Her state­ment that Bri­tain would leave the sin­gle mar­ket was by far the clear­est in­di­ca­tion she has ever given of her plans for the future, after months of crit­i­cism that she was not be­ing suf­fi­ciently trans­par­ent.

“I want to be clear: what I am propos­ing can­not mean mem­ber­ship of the sin­gle mar­ket,” May told an au­di­ence of for­eign diplo­mats and Bri­tain’s own Brexit ne­go­ti­at­ing team in Lon­don.

“In­stead, we seek the great­est pos­si­ble ac­cess to it through a new com­pre­hen­sive, bold and am­bi­tious free trade agree­ment. That agree­ment may take in el­e­ments of cur­rent sin­gle mar­ket ar­range­ments in cer­tain ar­eas,” May said.

Her an­nounce­ment that she would put the fi­nal Brexit deal to a vote in both houses of Par­lia­ment comes ahead of a court de­ci­sion on whether she has the power to start the process of with­draw­ing with­out par­lia­men­tary ap­proval.

She has said she plans to launch the two-year exit ne­go­ti­a­tion process by the end of March.

Bri­tons’ vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge num­ber of ques­tions about im­mi­gra­tion, the future rights of the many EU cit­i­zens al­ready liv­ing in the UK, whether ex­porters will keep tar­iff-free ac­cess to the sin­gle Euro­pean mar­ket and Bri­tish-based banks will be able to serve con­ti­nen­tal clients.

May said she wanted to avoid a “dis­rup­tive cliff edge” for busi­nesses when Bri­tain leaves the EU and she backed a phas­ing-in of changes in im­mi­gra­tion, cus­toms and reg­u­la­tion in ar­eas such as fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

“It’s in no one’s in­ter­ests for there to be a cliff edge for busi­ness or a threat to sta­bil­ity as we change our ex­ist­ing re­la­tion­ship to a new part­ner­ship with the EU,” May said in her speech.

“By this I do not mean that we will seek some form of un­lim­ited tran­si­tional sta­tus in which we find our­selves stuck forever in some kind of per­ma­nent po­lit­i­cal pur­ga­tory,” she said.

She wanted to have struck a new deal with the EU by the end of a two-year period for ne­go­ti­a­tions to leave the bloc.

“From that point on­wards, we be­lieve that a phased process of im­ple­men­ta­tion, in which both Bri­tain and the EU in­sti­tu­tions and mem­ber states pre­pare for the new ar­range­ments that will ex­ist be­tween us, will be in our mu­tual self in­ter­est,” she added.

The Brexit talks, ex­pected to be one of the most com­pli­cated ne­go­ti­a­tions in post-World War II Euro­pean his­tory, could de­cide the fate of her premier­ship, the UK and the future shape of the EU that Bri­tain leaves be­hind.

May’s speech comes as North­ern Ire­land, the part of the UK most ex­posed to Brexit due to its land bor­der with the Ir­ish Repub­lic, faces a lengthy period of po­lit­i­cal paral­y­sis after the col­lapse of its power-shar­ing gov­ern­ment.

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump has said that Brexit would turn out to be a great thing.

He has also promised to strike a swift bi­lat­eral trade deal be­tween the US and the UK.

PIC­TURE: AP

Bri­tain’s Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May out­side 10 Down­ing Street.

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