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Theresa May to confirm UK exit from EU single market

The UK will not retain 'partial' membership of the EU once it leaves, Theresa May will say in her much-anticipated Brexit speech, signalling that Britain will be leaving the EU's single market

17 January 2017, 8:17am
Theresa May will insist that the UK wants to remain ‘the best friend’ to European partners
Theresa May will insist that the UK wants to remain ‘the best friend’ to European partners
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to confirm that Britain will be leaving the single market while insisting that it wants to remain “the best friend” to European partners.

According to May’s office, in a speech setting out her 12 priorities for upcoming divorce talks with the EU bloc, May will say that Britain will not seek a Brexit deal that leaves it "half in, half out" of the European Union.

Speaking to an audience at Lancaster House, Westminster, including ambassadors from across the world, May will stress her ambition to reach out beyond the continent to build new trading relationships in a move that suggests the UK will also leave the customs union.

However, the prime minister is likely to restate an argument that she does not see it as an either/or choice and say that whatever final deal on trade and customs duties is struck, lorries will be able to pass through Dover and other ports unhindered, despite warnings from others on the issues.

"We seek a new and equal partnership, between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU," May will say, according to advance extracts released by her office.

"Not 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."

Investor fears of a 'Hard Brexit' have pushed the pound to some of the lowest levels against the US dollar seen in more than three decades.

More than six months after Britons voted to leave the EU, May has come under fire from investors, businesses and lawmakers for revealing little about the future relationship she will seek when she begins formal divorce talks by the end of March.

The speech extracts did not set out explicit details of the future trading relationship she wants to have with the EU or what the 12 priorities would be, but media reported they would also include control over immigration, removing Britain from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, securing the rights of EU citizens in Britain and committing to retain workers’ rights.

May will say that these negotiating priorities will be driven by four underlying principles: “certainty and clarity; a stronger Britain; a fairer Britain; and a truly global Britain”.

May will attempt to offer a more positive vision of the situation to other European countries. “Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends,” she will say.

“We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.”