Theresa May has pledged to take the UK out of the EU single market but vowed to seek a “bold and ambitious” trade agreement with the region.
In her long-awaited speech which sets out her Brexit priorities, the Prime Minister said she would push for the “greatest possible” access to the single market following Brexit and wants tariff-free trade.
May said: “This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states.”
“It should give British companies the maximum possible freedom to trade with and operate within European markets and let European businesses do the same in Britain”
“It should give British companies the maximum possible freedom to trade with and operate within European markets and let European businesses do the same in Britain.
“But I want to be clear: what I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market.”
Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, applauded the Prime Minister’s plan.
She said: “The Prime Minister has an ambitious plan with the right priorities. It is crucial that Britain gets a new deal that works for ordinary British consumers, which doesn’t hit them with the costs of new import tariffs at a time when the pound is already weakened.
“The number one priority for an orderly exit should be to allow all goods traded between the EU and the UK to be in free circulation”
Helen Dickinson, British Retail Consortium
“The Government has an opportunity to secure a win-win deal that works for the UK economy, by keeping prices down for consumers, while allowing the EU to continue benefiting from its open-trade relationship with the UK.
“This deal will take time to agree. The proposed ‘phased introduction’ must at all costs avoid the cliff-edge scenario – a sudden and overnight change in trading conditions that won’t benefit anyone.
“The number one priority for an orderly exit should be to allow all goods traded between the EU and the UK to be in free circulation.”
The Food and Drink Federation director-general Ian Wright CBE also welcomed May’s approach to securing a trade agreement.
“Two-thirds of food and drink exports go to the EU. So we welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to securing the freest and simplest possible trade arrangements with the EU,” he said.
May outlined her desire to control immigration, but insisted this would not impact UK businesses in attracting talent.
She said: “We will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain – indeed openness to international talent must remain one of this country’s most distinctive assets – but that process must be managed properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.”
May also signalled her desire to guarantee the rights of EU citizens already living in the UK, and the rights of British people living within the EU as early as possible.
Dickinson said: “Workers from the European Union are part of the reason that British retailers are often able to deliver affordable and high-quality goods.
“The Government is right to signal reassurance to EU workers throughout our UK supply chains about their right to remain here.”
The markets acted favourably to May’s speech, with the pound climbing 2.5% to $1.23. Sterling is on track to record its best performance against the dollar since 2008.