Tough talking May confirms for first time Britain will leave European single market

Updated 2017-01-18 10:01:23 Xinhua
British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at EU Summit at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 15, 2016. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at EU Summit at its headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, Dec. 15, 2016. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)

Britain will leave the European single market, restrict access to the country by EU citizens and end the jurisdiction in Britain of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday in her toughest ever speech.

Laying out a 12-point plan that amounts to a hard Brexit, May made it clear she wants a future relationship that is beneficial for both Britain and the EU's 27 member states.

May said she wants Britain to remain as a "best friend and neighbor" to Europe, but also reach out to the rest of the world as a global trading nation, to countries such as China, Brazil and the Gulf States.

On the critical question of the European single market, May said as a priority, Britain will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

"What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market," May said.

European leaders have said membership means accepting the "four freedoms" of goods, capital, services and people.

And being out of the EU but a member of the single market would mean complying with the EU's rules and regulations that implement those freedoms, without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are.

May added it was why both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the single market.

"So we do not seek membership of the single market. Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement," she said.

"I also want tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be as frictionless as possible."

"Not partial membership of the EU, associate membership, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out," she said.

"And my job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do," she said.

May also confirmed that both the House of Commons and the House of Lords will vote on the final Brexit deal with Europe.

Saying Britain was leaving the European Union, but not leaving Europe, May said she was seeking a new and equal partnership between an independent, self-governing Britain and friends and allies in the EU.

"We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe. Countries including China, Brazil, and the Gulf States have already expressed their interest in striking trade deals with us," she said.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has said Britain is at the front of the queue line for a trade deal with the United States, the world's biggest economy, she said.

May also said Brexit also meant Britain taking control of its own affairs.

"We will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain," she said.

In a message to the rest of Europe, May said many fear Britain's departure might herald the beginning of a greater unraveling of the EU.

"Let me be clear: I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interests of Britain. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain's national interest that the EU should succeed," May said.

"While I know Britain might at times have been seen as an awkward member state, the European Union has struggled to deal with the diversity of its member countries and their interests. It bends towards uniformity, not flexibility," she added.

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