Theresa May indicates 'hard Brexit' and dismisses free movement deal to keep single market access

Her rhetoric threatens to inflame a growing Tory row over the direction of Brexit

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Sunday 02 October 2016 19:13 BST
Theresa May on immigration in conference speech

Theresa May has given the clearest signal yet that she is veering towards a ‘hard Brexit’ as she told Tory conference those wanting to compromise on immigration controls are looking at things the “wrong way”.

She claimed that people pursuing a so-called ‘soft Brexit’ - including many Tory MPs and Lords - had simply not accepted the referendum result.

In a particularly inflammatory section which threatened to wrench open Tory divisions, she accused people wanting Parliament to have a say on an EU withdrawal of trying to “kill” Brexit and of “insulting the intelligence” of the British people.

Pro-EU MPs in the Tory party have been urging Ms May to do everything possible to preserve access to the single market to the greatest degree possible, with many arguing for full access.

But speaking to delegates, she claimed people who talk about a “trade-off” between controlling immigration and trading with Europe are looking at things the “wrong way”.

The Prime Minister then said of the deal she wants: “I want that deal to reflect the kind of mature, cooperative relationship that close friends and allies enjoy.

“I want it to include cooperation on law enforcement and counter-terrorism work. I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here.

“But let me be clear. We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration again. And we are not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”

Theresa May say's 'come on' towards politicians trying to reverse Brexit

The ECJ is the body which makes final decisions in disputes involving the rules of the single market.

Her rhetoric comes despite The Independent publishing a poll today suggesting that a majority of people actually support a ‘soft Brexit’ which sees the country make some concessions on immigration in return for the single market.

Ms May also said it was not up to the House of Commons or Lords to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, triggering Brexit talks, but up to “the Government alone”.

Addressing those who want Parliament involved in the process, she said: “[They] are not standing up for democracy, they’re trying to subvert it.

Theresa May says Article 50 will be triggered in March 2017

“They’re not trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it. They are insulting the intelligence of the British people.”

Turning her fire on those calling for a second referendum, she said: “Even now, some politicians – democratically-elected politicians – say that the referendum isn’t valid, that we need to have a second vote.

“Others say they don’t like the result, and they’ll challenge any attempt to leave the European Union through the courts - oh, come on.

“The referendum result was clear. It was legitimate. It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known. Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”

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