Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said Britain would leave the EU’s single market in order to restrict immigration in a clean break from the bloc, but lawmakers can vote on the final deal.
“Brexit must mean control of the number of people coming from Europe, and that is what we will deliver. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” she said in a highly-anticipated speech at London’s Lancaster House.
She added Britain would seek a trade deal giving “the greatest possible access” to the market on its departure. She also announced that any divorce deal with the remaining EU members must be approved by votes in both chambers of Parliament.
Britain has two years to negotiate a break-up deal once Ms. May triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, officially declaring the country’s intention to quit, or face leaving with no agreement.
Doubts over timetable
Ms. May has promised to trigger Article 50 by March-end and said she believed a final settlement and trade deal could be simultaneously negotiated within the time-frame. Foreign partners doubt such a timetable, with Austrian Foreign Minister Hans Joerg Schelling saying Brexit would take five years.
“It is not clear if it will be possible to negotiate the U.K.’s exit from the EU and the terms of a future cooperation at the same time,” he said.
Seeking to calm fears of a sudden jolt to the economy on abruptly leaving the EU, Ms. May said she would seek a “phased process of implementation.” Her direction will be cheered by those who want to leave the EU, but dismay those who fear the impact on the economy. EU countries accounted for 44% of Britain’s total exports in goods and services in 2015, with the country recording a £68.6 billion ($82.7 billion) trade deficit with the bloc. — AFP