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Theresa May seeks clean break, sets 12-goal plan for new UK-EU ties

Objectives include UK control of its own laws, control of immigration from Europe, and a free trade deal
Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 05:50

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British Premier Theresa May on Tuesday confirmed that the country would leave the European single market, putting an end to speculation that London might try to seek a "soft Brexit".

London

BRITISH Premier Theresa May on Tuesday confirmed that the country would leave the European single market, putting an end to speculation that London might try to seek a "soft Brexit". She also said a final deal on Brexit would be put to a parliamentary vote.

In her first significant Brexit speech at Lancaster House on Tuesday, Mrs May spelt out that Britain is not seeking "partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out".

"We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave... The vote to leave the European Union was to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit…. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe." She made an appeal to members of the European Union (EU) that the UK government desires an easy, friendly transition from the single market.

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She added that besides the wish to trade as freely as possible, "Britain's unique intelligence capabilities will continue to help to keep people in Europe safe from terrorism."

After Mrs May's speech promising a parliamentary vote on a Brexit deal, sterling rose for its biggest one-day gain since 1998. Sterling had stretched its rise to 2.9 per cent on the day against the dollar to put it at an 11-day high of US$1.2390. Against the euro, the pound soared 1.8 per cent - its biggest daily climb since before June's Brexit vote - to 86.38 pence.

Mrs May outlined twelve objectives that "amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union".

The first objective is  to provide certainty in a give or take negotiation with compromises and  imagination on both sides. The UK will repeal the European Communities Act and convert the body of existing EU law - into British law. British Parliament  will decide on any changes to that law after full scrutiny and proper Parliamentary debate.  The final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU will be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament. The second principle is Britain's control of its own laws and bringing an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.

Thirdly, the intention is to "strengthen the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom". The government has set up a Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, so ministers from each of the UK's devolved administrations - Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - can contribute to the Brexit process. 

The UK  will maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the UK's immigration system. At the same time, it will control immigration to Britain from Europe. "The message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe."

"We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain - indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country's most distinctive assets - but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest," Mrs May stressed.

The government also wants to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as it can.

In addition, Britain will ensure that workers' rights are fully protected and maintained.

On trade, the agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU's member states. It should give British companies, including banks, the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets - and let European businesses do the same in Britain.

Mrs May made clear however,  however, that this did not mean membership of the Single Market.

"European leaders have said many times that membership means accepting the 'four freedoms' of goods, capital, services and people... 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. It would mean accepting a role for the European Court of Justice that would see it still having direct legal authority in our country. It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all." Instead the UK "seeks the greatest possible access to the Single Market, on a fully reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement".

Mrs May added that large contributions to the EU budget would end, but for certain programmes, the UK could contribute money to the Union.

She said the the UK  should be free to strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union and not be encumbered by the EU's Customs Union's negotiations. Instead, the UK aims to negotiate a new tariff-free customs agreement with the EU.

The UK also intends to continue to collaborate with its European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives, and continue to cooperate in the fight against crime and terrorism.

In summation, the twelfth negotiation proposal is for a smooth, orderly Brexit.

"It is in no one's interests for there to be a cliff edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU... I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded... From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation to give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements."

READ MORE: *'Hard Brexit' - a painful but inevitable choice for the UK

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