UK aiming to leave European single market, prime minister confirms

UK aiming to leave European single market, prime minister confirms

The UK will leave the European single market as part of its departure from the European Union, according to prime minister Theresa May.

During a speech outlining the country's Brexit strategy, Mrs May said the UK will be seeking a full split from the EU, saying her government will not be pursuing "partial membership of the EU, associate membership of the EU or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out".

This will necessarily mean leaving the single market, as the prime minister said remaining part of the bloc would mean the UK would still be bound by EU laws, meaning the country would not be able to reclaim sovereign governance and control over immigration laws.

However, despite the confirmation that the country will quit the single market, Mrs May's speech focused heavily on Britain's continued intention to remain a global player, particularly in terms of maintaining strong trade links to Europe. This will mean securing a new free trade agreement with the remaining EU nations.

She said this deal "may take in elements of current single market arrangements in certain areas - on the export of cars and lorries for example, or the freedom to provide financial services across national borders - as it makes no sense to start again from scratch, when Britain and the remaining member states have adhered to the same rules for so many years".

While the Conservative leader ruled out retaining full European customs union membership, due to the limitations this would place on the UK being able to strike its own trade deals, she emphasized the importance of holding on to tariff-free access to EU markets, meaning a customs agreement of some kind - potentially including partial membership of the customs union - will need to be struck.

Mrs May also downplayed the prospect of the EU trying to enforce punitive trading terms on the UK post-Brexit, saying her government would be willing to allow Britain to leave the EU without any trade deal in place, rather than be forced to accept a "bad deal".