Britain will leave the European single market when it quits the European Union, Theresa May has said.
Mrs May said that her plans for Brexit cannot allow continued membership of the single market, which would require free movement of people and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
Instead, she said she will seek “the greatest possible access to the single market on a reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive trade agreement”.
Mrs May said that she wanted to remain part of a customs agreement with the remaining 27 EU states, but said she had an “open mind” over whether this would be through associate membership of the Customs Union or through some other arrangement.
Her announcement came in a high-profile speech in London setting out her objectives for post-Brexit Britain.
She also revealed that the final Brexit deal reached between the UK and European Union will be put to a vote of both Houses of Parliament.
Mrs May did not make clear whether a vote against the agreement would result in the UK remaining in the EU or in Britain crashing out of the 28-nation bloc without a deal.
“When it comes to Parliament, there is one … way in which I would like to provide certainty. I can confirm today that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force,” Mrs May said.
Under Article 50 of the EU treaties, Britain will have two years to negotiate a deal after it informs the European Council of its intention to quit – something which Mrs May has said she will do by the end of March.
Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier has suggested that an agreement must be concluded by October 2018 to allow time for ratification before Britain leaves in March 2019.
Mrs May said the UK would regain control of its borders.
“We will get control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU,” May added.
“While controlled immigration can bring great benefits, filling skill shortages, delivering public services, making British businesses the world beaters they often are, when the numbers get too high, public support in the system falters.”
In a bid to alleviate fears that Brexit will mean a more insular Britain, Mrs May said she wants the country to be “stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before.”
The PM said Britain would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after Brexit, however she would work to maintain the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland.
— Matthew Elliott (@matthew_elliott) January 17, 2017
The British pound rallied on having some clarity at last.
The currency was recovering from steep losses earlier in the week, trading 2.2 per cent higher at $1.2309.
On Monday, it was as low as $1.20, a near 31-year low.
Currency traders liked that the matter would be put to Parliament, giving Mrs May a chance to tame the excesses of the more fervent Brexiteers, said Kathleen Brooks, research director of City Index.