Remaining in the Single Market would add up to “not leaving the EU at all”, said May in a wide-ranging speech setting out the government’s plans for life after Brexit.
“I want to be clear – what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market. It would, to all intents and purposes, mean not leaving the EU at all. We seek the greatest possible access to it through a new, bold and ambitious free trade agreement.”
The prime minister was determined to avoid partial EU membership that left the nation “half in and half out”. May said: “We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave.”
‘Get out into the wider world’
May insisted it was time for Britain to “get out into the wider world – to trade and do business all around the globe”.
However, she pledged to push for the “greatest possible” access to the Single Market after Brexit. “I want us to be a truly Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.”
EU citizens in the UK
On migrant labour, the prime minister promised to guarantee the right of EU citizens in the UK at an early stage – provided there was a reciprocal deal for UK citizens in Europe.
Food industry reaction
Don’t miss food and drink industry reaction to the prime minister’s speech.
The prime minister said it remained “overwhelmingly and compellingly” in the nation’s national interest that the EU should succeed.
Meanwhile, last month a group of 75 organisations – with a turnover of £92bn and a combined workforce of nearly £1bn – sent an open letter to the prime minister urging her to protect the food sector’s tariff-free access to the Single Market and to ensure the sector retained access to a competent and reliable workforce.
Signatories included: 2 Sisters Food Group, Arla Foods, the National Farmers Union and retailers Morrisons, Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer.
PM’s 12-point Brexit plan
- Provide certainty about the UK’s exit from the EU
- Control the number of people arriving in the UK from Europe
- Rights for EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in this country
- Protect workers’ rights
- Foster free trade with European markets via a free trade agreement
- Forge new trade agreements with other countries
- Make Britain the best place for innovation and science
- Co-operate with others in the fight against crime and terrorism
- Ensure quitting the EU is a smooth process
- Control our own laws
- Strengthen ties between the four UK home nations
- Keep the Common Trade Area with Ireland