Theresa May dodges four questions in a row as PM is pressed for 'more details' on Brexit

The Prime Minister defends the Government’s thinking, arguing that it ‘isn’t muddled at all’

Jon Stone,Katie Forster
Sunday 08 January 2017 21:08
Theresa May avoids directly answering four questions in a row on Brexit

More details about the Government’s plan for leaving the European Union will be set out within “weeks”, Theresa May has said.

The Prime Minister was pressed on the detail of Brexit during a wide-ranging New Year interview with Sky News, and repeatedly failed to give direct answers. She instead pledged to provide more information soon.

“Often people talk in terms as if somehow we’re leaving the EU but we want to keep bits of membership of the EU. We’re leaving, we’re coming out,” Ms May said.

“I will be setting out some more details in the coming weeks as we look ahead to triggering Article 50.”

The PM also elaborated on an approach to social justice she has referred to as the “shared society” – though she decline to explain any policy detail that might feature in it.

Reiterating political themes from her speech to the Conservative party conference last year she told the broadcaster: “It’s about dealing with everyday injustices but it’s also about us all recognising our obligations as citizens within the community and society that we have here in the UK.

“It’s about recognising that there is a role for government but government needs to ensure that it is acting as effectively as possible in those areas where it should be taking action and one of the areas that.”

She defended the Government’s thinking over Brexit, arguing that it “isn’t muddled at all” in response to comments made by the UK’s former ambassador to the EU in his shock resignation message last week. Sir Ivan Rogers had urged his colleagues to challenge “muddled thinking” and “speak truth to power” as he quit just weeks before Ms May is expected to trigger the process of leaving the bloc.

The Prime Minister insisted she would be able to secure control over immigration to the UK as well as favourable trading terms with the European Union during Brexit negotiations.

She also had stern words for US President-elect Donald Trump, describing his historical comments about groping women as “unacceptable”. She however said this would not affect the special relationship and suggested she was optimistic about working with his coming administration.

In her first broadcast of 2017, she reiterated her belief that the issue of trade versus immigration control is not “binary”.

She said: “Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU.

“We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.

“So the question is what is the right relationship for the UK to have with the European Union when we are outside.”

Mrs May was asked during her interview on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show if Sir Ivan’s assessment over Brexit was accurate.

“Not at all,” she said, adding: “Anybody who looks at this question of free movement and trade as a sort of zero sum game is approaching it in the wrong way.

“I’m ambitious for what we can get for the UK in terms of our relationship with the European Union because I also think that’s going to be good for the European Union. Our thinking on this isn’t muddled at all.

“Yes, we have been taking time, I said we wouldn’t trigger Article 50 immediately, some said we should, Jeremy Corbyn said we should, but actually there hadn’t been any plans made for Brexit so it was important for us to take some time to actually look at the issues, look at the complexity of the issues, and that’s why as I say we didn’t trigger immediately but we will trigger by the end of March this year.”

The potential shape of the UK’s Brexit deal has dominated the domestic political landscape since the UK voted to the leave the European Union last June.

Critics believe it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Government to secure access to the single market while also demanding full control of the UK’s borders.

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