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Brexit: Theresa May Unveils Long-Awaited Strategy, Confirms UK Leaving EU Single Market

Deadline logo Deadline 1/17/2017 Diana Lodderhose
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Media coverage throughout the UK today was wall-to-wall as Prime Minister Theresa May finally revealed the government’s 12-point plan for negotiating the country’s exit from the European Union. After more than six months of speculation, the Conservative Party leader — who became Prime Minster last year after David Cameron resigned following a 51.1% to 48.9% Brexit vote on June 23 — said notably that the UK “cannot possibly” remain within the EU single market as staying in it would mean “not leaving the EU at all.” May’s long-awaited speech gave the most detailed view on the Brexit strategy before formal negotiations with the EU begin.

In it, May promised a clean break from the member-state and said that UK government will seek “the greatest possible access with a fully-reciprocal free trade deal.” She indicated that the country would pay contributions if necessary in order to reach an optimal trade deal, but it would stop making the EU contributions it makes now.

The final deal, she ensured the British public, would be put to a vote in both Houses of Parliament, despite hints last month that Parliament would be denied any input.

“It is important to recognize this fact: June 23rd was not the moment that Britain chose to step back from the world,” said May in her speech. “It was the moment we chose to build a truly Global Britain.”

May also took a hard stance on negotiating terms, saying that Britain would be prepared to leave the EU without a proper exit agreement rather than get a “bad deal.” “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she said. She told EU leaders that punishing the UK for its decision to leave would be “an act of calamitous self-harm.”

Markets were quick to react to May’s speech: the pound saw its best one-day gain against the dollar since 2008, climbing 2.5% to $1.234.

There’s a two-year limit on negotiating Britain’s exit from the EU and if the devalued pound stays at current levels until the exit, that’s good news for U.S. companies looking to shoot in the UK and could see a rise in acquisitions of British companies. It still remains unclear whether UK productions will stop receiving funds from EU arts programs such as the MEDIA program (MEDIA co-funded, for example, Ken Loach’s Palme d’Or winner I, Daniel Blake, which is up for five BAFTA noms this year) and whether UK TV and film productions will be eligible for the European content quota system, which is the backbone of many Euro productions.

Alluding to comments made by President-Elect Donald Trump in an interview with the Sunday Times earlier this week, May also said that she did not want the UK’s exit to herald the end of the European Union altogether.

“I know that this – and the other reasons Britain took such a decision – is not always well understood among our friends and allies in Europe,” she said. “And I know many fear that this might herald the beginning of a greater unravelling of the EU. But let me be clear: I do not want that to happen. It would not be in the best interests of Britain. It remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed. And that’s why I hope in the months and years ahead we will all reflect on the lessons of Britain’s decision to leave.”

Other key points in the speech included the intention to guarantee the rights of EU nationals in Britain and Britons living in continental Europe as soon as possible as well as establishing a common travel area between the UK and Ireland.

Theresa May’s 12-Point Brexit Plan

  1. Provide certainty about the process of leaving the EU
  2. Control our own laws
  3. Strengthen the four nations of the UK
  4. Maintain the Common Travel Area with Ireland
  5. Control of immigration
  6. Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU
  7. Protect workers’ rights
  8. Free trade with European markets
  9. New trade agreements with other countries
  10. The best place for science and innovation
  11. Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism
  12. A smooth, orderly Brexit

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