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May's Brexit speech: UK to leave single market and curb immigration

Theresa may

Prime minister Theresa May has confirmed that Britain will leave the single market, outlining her vision for a ‘bold, new’ free trade agreement with the European Union

May also said that, while immigration could bring ’great benefits, the free movement of people had ‘stretched’ infrastructure, including housing, and that the government must limit the number of those coming into the UK from the European Union.

‘Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe, and that is what we will deliver,’ she said.

However, she added that she wanted to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, as well as the rights of British nationals living in EU member states. 

May made the comments during a long-awaited speech on how Britain will leave the European Union at Lancaster House, central London.

During the speech today (17 January), May set out the government’s 12-point plan, for a ‘smooth and orderly’ Brexit, and said that Britian was seeking a ‘new and equal partnership’ with EU.

She stressed that it would be impossible for Britain to remain in the single market because it would mean ‘not leaving the EU at all’, instead proposing a new trade agreedment which would ‘allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states’.

’[The new agreement] should give British companies the maximum possible freedom to trade with and operate within European markets and let European businesses do the same in Britain,’ she added.

‘But I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market.’

John McRae, director at Orms, said he was ‘surprisingly encouraged’ by May’s announcements.

He said: ‘It is interesting to hear that the UK “will not hold on to bits of EU membership”, as this suggests a clean separation and therefore the possibility of better negotiations with the rest of the world and the EU.

’I concur that a “punitive approach” to the UK’s exit is not the smartest way for the EU to negotiate our exit, as punishing the UK will not help a future trade deal and be seen as closing down an existing relationship.

‘I am optimistic that we will have access to the necessary skilled workers from the EU and rest of the world and encouraged that we will be seeking to “guarantee the rights of current EU citizens living here” as a priority, and rightly so.’

But McRae added that the ‘devil [was] in the detail’ and was yet to be convinced by May’s promise for a ‘smooth and orderly’ Brexit. 

May added that she wanted Britain to have tariff-free access to EU markets and a customs agreement with the EU, which could mean partial membership of the customs union.

Describing the EU as ‘close friends and neighbours’, May said that the people of Britain voted to leave the European Union with their ‘eyes wide open’.

She also confirmed that Parliament would vote on the final deal agreed between the UK and the European Union.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Seven months to come up with that? Better get a move on.

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  • We should also ask what this means for architects wishing to build in the EU. Generally a Free Trade Agreement covers goods but not services. So post Brexit we should be asking what access we will get to the EU? (probably none unless you set up an office in an EU Country) and will our professional qualifications be recognized in the same way? ( probably not, and likely that one will have to jump through many hoops to practice as an architect.)

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