Theresa May indicates UK will leave single market

PM denies ‘muddled thinking’ over Brexit and says she will be able to control immigration

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday (January 8) she would set out her strategy for Brexit over the coming weeks. Video: Sky News/Sophy Ridge on Sunday


Theresa May has indicated that Britain will leave the EU single market as she set out her determination to strike a post-Brexit trading deal that allows her to control immigration from the rest of Europe.

Ms May said she was not interested in trying to “keep bits of membership” of the EU, rather that she wanted a bespoke British deal with the rest of Europe that delivered “the best possible deal for UK companies”.

The prime minister’s allies admit the EU will not allow Britain to stay a member of the single market, given that Ms May has already said that controlling immigration and ending European Court of Justice jurisdiction were red lines.

The single market sets common rules for the trade in goods and services, as well as facilitating the free movement of capital and people; the ECJ enforces the rules in the market covering 500m people.

Chancellor Philip Hammond is still arguing the case that Britain should seek to remain at least partially a member of the customs union, intended to allow the trade in goods to continue without border checks and tariffs.

In her first interview of 2017, Mrs May told Sophy Ridge on Sky News: “Often people talk in terms as if we are leaving the EU but we still want to keep bits of membership of the EU. We’re leaving, we’re coming out.”

Hybrid trade deal

Last week the UK’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, quit his post, urging his fellow British civil servants in Brussels to assert their independence by challenging “ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking”.

He warned Ms May it was unlikely the EU would agree a new trading arrangement within the two years of the article 50 exit talks and has told Downing Street that Britain could crash out of the EU without any deal at all.

Ms May rejected Sir Ivan’s analysis: “Our thinking on this is not muddled at all,” she said. “Yes we have been taking our time. It was important for us to take our time and look at the issues.”

Her red lines on immigration control and ECJ jurisdiction have set the parameters for any negotiation and the prime minister’s opponents warned that she was leading the country towards a “hard Brexit”.

Ms May, who plans to visit Washington this spring, said she had had “two very good, positive conversations” with Donald Trump, but denounced one of the US president-elect’s comments about women.

Asked what she thought of Mr Trump’s comment that being famous allowed a male star to grab women “by the pussy”, Ms May replied: “I think that’s unacceptable and in fact Donald Trump himself has said that.”

Sturgeon ‘not bluffing’

She hinted that a “hard” Brexit could see a vote on independence within five years, but insisted that she was offering a “compromise solution” to the prime munister .

Ms Sturgeon has indicated that “soft” Brexit could take the issue of a second referendum on Scottish independence off the table in the short term.

But she told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show that she was prepared to call a fresh vote if the terms of Brexit were not right.

She said “they will be making a big mistake if they think that I’m in any way bluffing” because leaving the European Union created a “fundamental question” for Scotland.

“If we’re going to be ignored, if our voice has been completely cast aside, our interests cast aside, then that can happen on anything,” she said.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017/PA