British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to regain control of her country’s borders and leave the single market, promising a clean break from the EU while warning other EU countries not to take punitive actions against the UK.
In her first in-depth speech on Brexit since succeeding David Cameron as Prime Minister, Theresa May vowed to pursue a clean break with the European Union and place the final deal before the British Parliament for approval.
“We seek a new and equal partnership — between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU,” May said. “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.”
While vowing to protect the rights of EU nationals already living in the United Kingdom, May noted the decision by voters to leave the EU signified their desire to regain control of their borders.
“Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver,” she said.
Expressing her desire to maintain close access to European markets, May indicated her support for new free-trade deals following the UK’s withdrawal from the single market.
“I want to be clear: What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market,” May added. “Instead we seek the greatest possible access to it through a new comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.”
“That agreement may take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas.”
May also vowed to work closely with leaders from regions of the United Kingdom that voted to remain in the EU, specifically Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already expressed interest in holding a second referendum on Scottish independence should May pursue a hard exit from the EU.
“We won’t agree on everything, but I look forward to working with the administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom,” May said.
Political turmoil in Northern Ireland following the collapse of the region’s government could upend Brexit negotiations, as May will have to negotiate the status of the region’s border with Ireland.
Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the “troubles” in Northern Ireland, the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland is open; however, there are questions whether an open border can be maintained once the UK leaves the EU.
Despite concern that members of the Labor and Liberal Democratic Parties in Parliament opposed to Brexit could scuttle the final deal, May indicated her confidence that the will of the people would be respected.
“I am sure the British Parliament will want to deliver the views of the British people and respect the democratic decision that was taken,” May said.
May has already pledged to begin the negotiation process by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty sometime in March; however, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has yet to rule on whether a vote in Parliament is required to trigger Article 50.
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