The British prime minister, Theresa May, has ruled out Britain staying within the European single market, saying to remain would be “not leaving the EU at all”.
“I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” the leader announced Tuesday.
The 42-minute speech brings to an end months of speculation of a “soft Brexit” following 2016’s referendum in which a slim majority voted for Britain to leave the European Union.
The departure was announced as one of 12 objectives outlined by May in London in a long-awaited speech.
She also said that the UK’s parliament would vote on the final deal agreed.
Other priorities outlined included maintaining a common travel area between the UK and Irish Republic, tariff-free trade with the EU, a customs agreement with the EU, continued sharing of intelligence and policing information, and controls of immigration rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU.
“We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in Britain and rights of British nationals in other member states as early as we can,” May said about the over 1 million Britons living in EU countries.
“I’ve told other EU leaders we could give them the certainty these people want straight away and reach a deal now.
“Many favour such an agreement. One or two others do not. I want everyone to know it remains and important priority for Britain and many other member states to resolve this challenge as soon as possible. Because it is the fight and fair thing to do.”
The message on immigration was nuanced as May began her speech by saying that citizens from EU member states would “still be welcome in our country as I hope our citizens will be welcome in yours.”
But in outlining the third priority, she said that control of immigration to Britain from Europe was needed to “build a fairer Britain” and ease pressure on the system.
She said that Britain would continue to attract “the brightest and best to work or study in Britain” but did not expand on how new controls would work.
When contacted by Delano, Britain’s ambassador to Luxembourg John Marshall reiterated Theresa May’s words about wishing to reach an agreement mutually guaranteeing the rights of British citizens living in EU member states and the rights of EU member states’ citizens living in the UK as soon as possible.
He added: "This is a priority issue for Britain and for many other member states, but remains subject to negotiation and agreement with the 27 member states.”