Theresa May says she has an 'open mind' over Brexit negotiations

'I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union, not adopting necessarily a model that is on the shelf already'

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 27 July 2016 18:37
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Theresa May says she has an 'open mind' over Brexit negotiations

Theresa May has said she has an “open mind” about the impending Brexit negotiations and that Britain should not necessarily adopt a model “that is on the shelf already”.

The Prime Minister, who on Wednesday travelled to Rome to meet the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, said Italy and the UK had agreed on the “importance of maintaining the closest possible economic ties” once Britain formally leaves the EU.

She added that the EU referendum sent a clear message that the British people want “some control” over free movement but that she would also strive to achieve the best possible deal on free trade during the negotiations.

Appearing to dismiss the Norway model for Britain’s post-Brexit future, she said: “But, on the other side, we do of course need to ensure that we get the best possible deal in relation to trade in goods and services. And I’m looking at this with an open mind.

“I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union, not adopting necessarily a model that is on the shelf already, but saying what is going to work for the UK and what is going to work best for the European Union in ensuring that we can maintain that economic relationship which has been of benefit to us in the past.”

During their joint press conference, Ms May revealed that she had chaired the first meeting of a Cabinet committee on exiting the EU to “prepare and plan for an orderly departure”.

Ms May also said that – provided the rights of Britons living on the continent were respected – she intended to guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently living in the UK. “On the issue that you raise of Italian and other EU citizens who are living in the UK, I want to be able to guarantee their rights in the UK, I expect to be able to do that, I intend to be able to do that, to guarantee their rights,” she said.

“The only circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states were not guaranteed. But I hope that this is an issue we can address early on.”

The Italian PM added that the negotiations must be as “efficient as possible” and called for a timeline to be set out. “It's in everybody's interest to succeed in the end, to succeed in having a vision or a specific timeline which will make this pass easier,” he said.

“We must ensure that everything is as clear as possible. We must rid ourselves of uncertainties with regard to the decision that was made by the United Kingdom to leave the institutions of the 28 countries of the European Union.

“Of course we are saddened by this and we, to a certain extent, understand the public opinion. It's a decision that was made by the British people and we respect it, however painful it is. Now we have to deal with it with common sense.”

It comes as Nick Clegg, the former Deputy Prime Minister and Liberal Democrat EU spokesperson, launched his first briefing paper analysing the options facing the Government if it intends to retain access to Europe’s tariff-free market.

“Theresa May has said she wants to have the ‘closest possible’ economic relationship with Europe but has not spelt out what that means or what price she is prepared to pay for it. The hard truth is there is no easy, cost-free option. We can't expect one set of rules for us and another for everyone else,” he said.

“Not only is freedom of movement a fundamental part of how the Single Market operates, but even if she were able to cut a deal on that we would still be subject to the rules that govern the market without any control over them.”

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