After leaving the European Union, the UK cannot expect to hold on to “bits” of its membership, said British Prime Minister Theresa May in an interview with Sky News.
Her comment came after she was asked whether she would “prioritise” controlling immigration over staying in the single market. She also said her approach was not “muddled”, following criticism by the UK’s former EU ambassador.
As reported by the BBC, May also promised to provide more details in “the coming weeks”.
Labour, however, has called on May to give “more clarity” ahead of the “most important negotiations for a generation”.
According to BBC, there has been much debate in recent weeks about the nature of the deal the government is aiming for, in particular whether controls on the movement of EU citizens will mean the UK leaves the European single market and customs union.
May told Sky News on January 8: “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.”
May has promised to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty (getting formal Brexit negotiations with the EU under way) by the end of March.
She told Sky: “Over the coming weeks, I’ll be setting out more details of my plan for Britain. Yes, that’s about getting the right deal for Brexit, but it is also about economic reform. It’s about getting the right deal internationally, but it’s also about a fair deal at home.”
Commenting on May’s interview, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer told the BBC: “She had one question put to her three times and still didn’t answer it, which is, ‘Are you prioritising immigration over access to the single market?’ That was the question she didn’t want to answer. And I think now, 10 to 11 weeks from the triggering of Article 50, and the most important negotiations for a generation, we need more clarity than that, and we haven’t got it.”
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said May’s comments “confirmed she is taking us towards a disastrous hard Brexit that will leave our country poorer and more divided”.
But Richard Tice, co-chairman of the Leave Means Leave campaign, said: “We welcome the prime minister’s commitment to taking back control of Britain’s borders, therefore ending preferential treatment for EU citizens. She is right that issues of trade and immigration are not binary because when Britain leaves the single market and the customs union, though freedom of movement will cease, Britain’s ability to trade with the EU and access the single market will continue.”