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Hard Brexit is not inevitable, May says

British Prime Minister Theresa May has said the media were responsible for a slump in the value of the pound by wrongly claiming her views about Britain leaving the EU equated to a hard Brexit

10 January 2017, 8:02am
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Britain would not be able to keep 'bits' of its EU membership
British Prime Minister Theresa May said that Britain would not be able to keep 'bits' of its EU membership
A clean break with the EU's single market is not inevitable, British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Monday, seeking to clarify comments that pushed down the pound on the possibility of a hard Brexit from the European Union.

May criticised British media for misinterpreting what she described as long-term position on EU talks, but the pound failed to recover from a 10-week low and was down more than 1% to the dollar and 1.2% against the euro on the day, Reuters news agency reported.

May, under pressure to offer more detail on her strategy before launching divorce talks with the European Union, said on Sunday in a televised interview that Britain would not be able to keep "bits" of its membership.

Some commentators saw that as a sign she was heading for a hard Brexit, which business says would damage the economy by breaking links with the single market of 500 million consumers. May shot back that the media was using terms she did not accept.

"I'm tempted to say that the people who are getting it wrong are those who print things saying I'm talking about a hard Brexit, (that) it is absolutely inevitable there's a hard Brexit," she told the Charity Commission, a government department that regulates charities in England and Wales.

"I don't accept the terms hard and soft Brexit. What we're doing is (that we are) going to get an ambitious, good, best possible deal for the United Kingdom in terms of ... trading with and operating within the single European market."

May has repeatedly said she will not reveal her strategy before triggering Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty to start some of the most complicated negotiations since World War Two, but her reticence has spurred scrutiny of her every comment.

Asked whether May had ruled out getting preferential access to the single market in her interview on Sunday, her spokeswoman said she had ruled nothing out or in.