UK will implement Brexit when it’s ready, says Theresa May

PM rules out replacing free movement of people from the EU with points-based system

British prime minister Theresa May leaving Downing Street in London on Wednesday.  “This is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain,” she told MPs.  Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

British prime minister Theresa May leaving Downing Street in London on Wednesday. “This is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain,” she told MPs. Photograph: Neil Hall/Reuters

 

Theresa May has told MPs that she will take her time in formulating a negotiating position on leaving the EU and will not provide a “running commentary” on the negotiations. She acknowledged that those who voted for Brexit were impatient to see June’s referendum decision implemented but insisted that it was essential to approach the negotiations in a “sober and considered” manner.

“This is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain. It is not about the Norway model or the Swiss model or any other country’s model – it is about developing our own British model. We will not take decisions until we are ready, we will not reveal our hand prematurely and we will not deliver a running commentary on every twist and turn,” she said. 

The prime minister bluntly ruled out replacing free movement of people from the EU with a points-based immigration system, one of the central promises of the Leave campaign, telling MPs that such a system would not help to control immigration.

Ms May’s statement followed accusations that her government was in disarray over the process of leaving the EU, with senior ministers sending conflicting messages about key issues in the forthcoming negotiations.

Earlier this week, the prime minister distanced herself from Brexit secretary David Davis’s suggestion that it was “very improbable” that Britain could regain control over immigration from the EU while remaining part of the European single market. The prime minister’s official spokeswoman said that, when Mr Davis made the remark during a statement to MPs on Monday, he was expressing a personal opinion rather than official policy.

Ms May on Wednesday expressed confidence that Britain would secure new bilateral trade deals after it leaves the EU, adding that a number of leaders she met at the G20 meeting in China this week said they would welcome talks on lowering trade barriers.

 A few hours earlier, however, Australia’s trade secretary Steven Ciobo said that any post-Brexit bilateral trade deal with his country was unlikely to come into effect before the middle of 2019.

“My formal advice is that, and this is from the UK side, the UK is unable to negotiate or sign an agreement prior to the formal exit from the EU. We can certainly have preliminary discussions and that’s part of what I’m doing here this week, preliminary discussions around what a post-Brexit Australia-UK trade deal might look like,” he told the BBC.

Ms May told MPs that, although no new trade deals could come into effect until after Britain leaves the EU, preliminary negotiations could begin immediately. She said she is committed to free trade but that she told the other G20 leaders in China that they must do more to ensure that its benefits are enjoyed by citizens as well as corporations.

“Across the world today, many feel these opportunities do not seem to come to them. They feel a lack of control over their lives. They have a job but no job security; they have a home but worry about paying the mortgage. They are just about managing but life is hard. And it is not enough for governments to take a hands-off approach,” she said.

“So at this summit I argued that we need to deliver an economy that works for everyone – with bold action at home and co-operation abroad. That is why, in Britain, we are developing a proper industrial strategy to improve productivity in every part of the country, so more people can share in our national prosperity through higher real wages and greater opportunities for young people.”