Britain is leaving the EU’s single market, Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday as she unveiledÂ her strategy for leaving the European Union.
In a hard hitting speech in London, May set out her vision of a United Kingdom outside the EU. While saying she wanted Britain to be aÂ “best friend and neighbor to our European partners,” May said the U.K. would be leaving the EU’s single market, leaving the EU’s customs union in its current form, and ending large payments to the EU. She also backed a “flexible” transitional deal, but warned she would rather walk away fromÂ a deal than accept one that was bad for Britain. May alsoÂ said members of both houses of the British parliament would get a vote on the final deal.
May ended months of speculation over whether she would pursue a hard Brexit by saying she would seek “a new and equal partnership … Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out.
“We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave,” she said.Â “The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. My job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.”
After describing the deal with the EU struck by David Cameron as a “valiant final attempt,” May said “there was not enough flexibility” for voters, which is why they backed Brexit in June.
May arrives to deliver her keynote speech on Brexit at Lancaster House | Leon Neal/WPA Pool via Getty Images
MayÂ saidÂ remaining a member of the single market “would mean being bound by EU laws. That would mean in practice not leaving the EU.”
The British PM, who took office shortly after the June 23 vote, admitted the U.K. wasÂ “at times seen as a awkward member” of the EU and added the vote wasÂ “not always well understood” in other European capitals. But she said she did not want the Brexit vote toÂ lead to a greater unraveling of the EU,” a possible dig at U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, who told the Times and Bild newspapers this week that he expected more EU members to leave the bloc.
She said she wanted “a truly global Britain” to beÂ “the best friend and neighbor to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too.”
While May was clear about leaving the single market, she was less precise about the U.K.’s membershipÂ of the EU’s customs union. She said continuedÂ customs union membership would stop the U.K. being able to strike trade deals, but added that she wanted a customs agreement of sorts with Europe and “that could mean partial membership of the customs union.” How this would be achieved has yet to beÂ decided, she said.
A number of European politicians, includingÂ Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s main man on Brexit, have warned the U.K. would be on the hook for substantial payments into the EU budget even after Brexit, but May said Britain would no longer contribute “huge sums” to the EU once it leaves the bloc. She admitted it might continue to make some payments “in return for access to certain programs.”
May said while Britain wants to remain a good friend and neighbor to the Continent, she was aware of some calls to punish Britain for voting to leave. A punitive dealÂ would be â€œan act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe, and it would not be the act of a friend,â€ she said, warning Europe that no deal for Britain would be better than a bad deal.
May said she wanted toÂ guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain, and Britons living in Europe, as soon as possible, suggesting a deal could be struck straightaway. She said many EU countries also want an early deal, but not everyone.
Reversing her previous position, she saidÂ thatÂ MPsÂ and members of the House of Lords would get a vote on the final deal. The government had long argued it could invoke Article 50 without parliament’s consent, but High Court judges disagreed. A verdict from the Supreme Court, the highest in the country, is due any time and the government is expected to lose the case.
“The country is coming together. Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it â€”Â Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults” â€” Theresa May
The PM also said she would “consider papers from the Scottish and Welsh governments” as part of the Brexit strategy.
May proposed a flexible Brexit transition deal, with different aspects lasting for different amounts of time, andÂ she warned it was in “no oneâ€™s interests to have a cliff edge,” although she stressed she wasÂ opposed to an indefinite transition period.
She ended by saying: “The country is coming together. Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it â€”Â Leaver and Remainer and all the accompanying insults â€”Â and unite to make a success of Brexit.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party said May was “determined to use Brexit to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven on the shores of Europe …Â We welcome that the prime minister has listened to the case weâ€™ve been making about the need for full tariff-free access to the single market but are deeply concerned about her reckless approach to achieving it.”
Tim Farron, leader of the pro-Remain Liberal Democrats, called May’s strategy “a theft of democracy, a presumption that the 51.9 percent of people who voted to leave meant the most extreme version of Brexit available.”