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PM confirms the UK will leave the EU single market and try to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ for financial services

UK prime minister Theresa May has said today that Britain cannot remain part of the EU single market but would seek the greatest possible access to it after Brexit.

17 JAN 2017 | CHRIS SEEKINGS
PM trying to provide certainty ©Shutterstock
PM trying to provide certainty ©Shutterstock

She also outlined that it was in the best interests of all concerned to try and avoid a ‘disruptive cliff edge’ for businesses, such as those involved in financial services, and instead called for a ‘phased implementation period’ to ensure a smooth transition.

In addition the PM announced her wish for the UK to strike a comprehensive free trade deal with EU after exit, suggesting that the country could remain part of the customs union in some capacity.

She said: “The UK voted to leave the EU and embrace the world, and they did so with their eyes open – it is the job of this government to deliver it.

“It was a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy and national self-determination, but we will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends.

“As a priority we will pursue a bold free trade agreement between Britain and the EU, but what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market, as it would, to all intents and purposes, mean not leaving the EU at all.

“I want us to have a customs agreement with the EU. Whether that means we must reach a completely new agreement, become an associate member of the customs union in some way, or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position.

“We believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest.”

The PM insisted that she wanted to create as much certainty as possible throughout the transition, and that guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens already living in Britain and the rights of British nationals in other member states would be a way of achieving that.

In addition May said that Britain should be free to establish its own tariff schedules at the World Trade Organisation, highlighting that many countries outside of Europe had already expressed an interest in trade deals, warning the EU that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’.

Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said: “We welcome that the British prime minister today sketched out her government’s ideas about its departure and at last created a bit more clarity about the British plans.

“She has underlined that Great Britain is seeking a positive and constructive partnership, a friendship, with a strong EU. That is good.

“We also want a relationship that is as good, close and trusting and hope for constructive negotiations with this goal in mind. But our line and remains: negotiations will only begin when Great Britain has officially announced its desire to leave.”