Hard Brexit: Theresa May to announce withdrawal from single market to get 'clean break' from EU

Critics across the political divide slam 'incredibly reckless move' 

Will Worley
Sunday 15 January 2017 01:05 GMT
Theresa May will make her biggest speech yet on Brexit
Theresa May will make her biggest speech yet on Brexit (AFP/Getty)

The government is prepared to abandon the single market, customs union and the European Court of Justice in order to achieve a clean break with the EU, Theresa May is expected to say this week.

The Prime Minister will also call for “an end to the division” which has maintained a hold over the country since the referendum, in a speech which is expected to give the most detailed insight yet into her approach to the forthcoming talks with Brussels.

But the reported announcements – which indicate a hard Brexit – have worried Remain campaigners, who branded it as an “an incredibly reckless move” by the Prime Minister, and one which she did not have a proper mandate for.

Ms May is expected to say that the UK will regain full control of its borders, even at the price of single market membership, and leave the customs union in order to pursue international trade deals, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

Theresa May avoids directly answering four questions in a row on Brexit

In addition, Ms May is likely to say that the European Court of Justice will no longer bind UK laws, something which the Prime Minster has been in favour of since her Home Office days.

A source familiar with the plans told the Telegraph: “She’s gone for the full works. People will know when she said ‘Brexit means Brexit’, she really meant it.”

Remain campaigners hit back on Saturday night. “There are millions of people of Britain now getting the hard Brexit not on the ballot and for which they never voted,” said Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

"This speech proves that Theresa May is driving the country towards a divisive and destructive exit from the European Union.

"If the UK had voted 52-48 to remain you can bet that Theresa May would never be pushing towards a hard Remain. There would be no embracing of the Euro, no joining the Schengen Zone. But the Prime Minister seems hell bent on ripping up everything we share with the European Union no matter how damaging that is to the UK.

"This is an incredibly reckless move by Theresa May. It will harm the country for generations to come. The Conservatives once claimed to be the party of business, that record is in tatters."

Criticism also came from within Ms May’s own party. Anna Soubry, who campaigned to remain in the European Union, told Sky News: "The Government has no mandate for this. To go into the negotiation conceding on the single market and the customs union is extremely serious and very bad news."

Ms May will also use the occasion to announce her vision for a “Global Britain” which is open to the world and will seek to build a positive relationship with its former partners in the EU.

And the Prime Minister will highlight the importance of building common goals, such as the contentious issue of workers' rights – which many feared would be vulnerable to dilution after Brexit.

Calling for unity, the Prime Minister will say that while people were divided over the referendum, more will share a common view of the kind of Britain they want to build in the future.

Ms May is expected to say: “One of the reasons that Britain’s democracy has been such a success for so many years is that the strength of our identity as one nation, the respect we show to one another as fellow citizens, and the importance we attach to our institutions means that when a vote has been held we all respect the result.

“The victors have the responsibility to act magnanimously. The losers have the responsibility to respect the legitimacy of the result. And the country comes together.

“And that is what we are seeing today. The overwhelming majority of people – however they voted – say we need to get on and make Brexit happen. Business isn’t calling to reverse the result, but planning to make a success of it. And the House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly for us to get on with it too.

“So the country is coming together. Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success of Brexit and build a truly Global Britain.”

Ms May's speech will take place at Lancaster House, long associated with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to an audience of foreign ambassadors and diplomats.

Since the 23 June vote, there have been numerous instances of questionable behaviour connected to the referendum. Reports of a significant spike in racism caused concern among many.

The decision of three High Court judges to bar Ms May from using the Royal Prerogative to trigger Article 50 and instead consult Parliament led to uproar, with one right-wing media outlet branding them 'enemies of the people'.

The case went on to the Supreme Court but Ms May has set a deadline of March this year for formally beginning the withdrawal process.

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