May says UK to leave Single Market

Theresa May commits to maintaining common travel area between Ireland and North in Brexit speech

Hugh Linehan Tue, Jan 17
LIVE: May says UK to leave Single Market

Sort by:

  • Latest first
  • Oldest first
  • This event has now ended
  • 10:47
    Hello, I'm Hugh Linehan and I'll be providing live coverage of UK prime minister Theresa May's speech on Brexit today. If you'd like to contact me or have any observations on this crucial issue for Ireland, you can mail me at or find me on Twitter at @hlinehan.
  • 10:53
    The Conservative government has so far revealed few details about what it wants to secure from the Brexit talks, which it is promising to trigger by the end of March. But Downing Street said Mrs May would today set out 12 negotiating objectives. And it has already been reported that she will give the strongest signal yet that the UK will exit the EU’s single market. She will tell other European countries the UK wants to trade with them "as freely as possible" but will not be "half-in, half-out" of the EU.
  • 10:55
    Addressing an audience including foreign ambassadors in central London, Mrs May will say the UK will be "the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too".
    She will tell the remaining 27 EU member states: "We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends.
    "We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship."
  • 11:00
    We seek a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU. Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out,” Mrs May is expected to say.

    “We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. My job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do.”
  • 11:03
    All these quotes from the prime minister were released overnight to the media, including:

    "We have 12 objectives that amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

    And as we negotiate that partnership, we will be driven by some simple principles: we will provide as much certainty and clarity as we can at every stage. And we will take this opportunity to make Britain stronger, to make Britain fairer, and to build a more Global Britain too."
  • 11:05

    From the BBC's political correspondent:


  • 11:06

  • 11:11

    The Irish Times's media correspondent, Laura Slattery, thinks Brexit could provide opportunities for the Irish media industry.


    The possibility that Ireland could become a post-Brexit base for cross-border broadcasters is one that the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland is keen to explore. It could create a much expanded licensing regime here as well as an additional source of employment.
    For Irish broadcasters, Brexit may also have the positive side effect of upsetting the opt-out channels. These are the long list of UK channels that sell advertising in the Irish market and collectively add up to a weighty competitive force. The opt-out channels do not currently need an Irish licence for the pleasure of being a thorn in the side of RTÉ and TV3. But when the UK leaves the EU, that is likely to change.

    Read Laura's full article here.

  • 11:16

    Our London Editor, Denis Staunton, on the prospects for a hard border on the island of Ireland.

    Politicians in Britain and Ireland have suggested that technology might make customs checks almost invisible but no such border currently exists anywhere. Even along the border between Norway and Sweden, one of the most technologically advanced and co-operatively managed, goods must be cleared for customs and lorries are checked as they cross from one country into another.

    Full article here.

  • 11:23

    From our political editor:


  • 11:36

    The Labpur party has criticised what it says is a breach of a pledge in the Conservative election manifesto in 2015 to safeguard the UK's interests within the Single Market. It has dug out some past quotes from Mrs May on the subject, including this:

    "So the single market accounts for a huge volume of our trade, but if it is completed – so there are genuinely open markets for all services, the digital economy, energy and finance – we would see a dramatic increase in economic growth, for Britain and the rest of Europe. The Capital Markets Union – initiated and led by Britain – will allow finance to flow freely between member states: the first proposal alone could lead to £110 billion in extra lending to businesses. A completed energy single market could save up to £50 billion per year across the EU by 2030. And a digital single market is estimated to be worth up to £330 billion a year to the European economy overall. As Britain is the leading country in Europe when it comes to the digital economy, that is an enormous opportunity for us all. These changes will mean greater economic growth in Britain, higher wages in Britain and lower prices for consumers – in Britain."

  • 11:39

  • 11:43

  • 11:46
    A flurry in the room suggests Mrs May is on her way.
  • 11:50
    Mrs May begins her address. "A little over 6 months ago, the British people voted for change... with their eyes open.. It is the job of this government to deliver it.'
  • 11:51
    'I want this UK to emerge from this period of change, stronger, fairer and more united than ever before. I want us to be a truly global Britain'
  • 11:51
    'A great global trading nation respected around the world.'
  • 11:53
    Mrs May says her government will 'embrace this moment of change' to improve the quality of people's lives across Britain, and 'will put this precious union' at the centre of its policy.
  • 11:54
    'We are a European country but we have also always looked beyond Europe.'
  • 11:55
    'June 23rd was the moment we chose to build a truly global Britain. I know many fear this may herald a greater unravelling of the EU. I do not want this to happen.'
  • 11:56
    'Our political traditions are different. The public expect to be able to hold their governments to account very directly, so supranational institutions sit awkwardly with our way of life.'
  • 11:58
    Theresa May: 'There is a lesson in Brexit for the EU. Our continent's great strength has been its diversity.'
  • 11:59
    May: 'We do not want to turn the clock back... We will continute to be partners and close friends. You will still be welcome in this country, as we hope our citizens will be welcome in yours.'
  • 12:00
    May says UK does not seek a model already enjoyed by other countries. Her job is to get the right deal, which entails 12 objectives.'
  • 12:01
    First objective: provide certainty wherever we can. It's important to provide that to business and others.
  • 12:02
    The government will put the final deal to a vote in Parliamnet.
  • 12:03
    The second objective is taking control of the UK's laws, which will mean the UK no longer having its laws subject to the European Court of Justice.
  • 12:04
    I hope the main parties in Northern Ireland will work to re-establish a partnership government as soon as possible.
  • 12:05
    The devolved administrations should be involved as much as possible. Theywon't agree on everything but I look foward to working with devolved administrations, including where repatriated EU laws should be devolved to.
  • 12:07
    The UK will maintain a land border with the EU. Maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland will be a key objective. The UK will work to find a solution to maintain Common Travel Area while regaining control of UK borders.
  • 12:09
    Third objective is building a 'fairer Britian', which relates to control of immigration. Controlled immigration can bring great benefits, but when the numbers get too high, public support falters. You cannot control immigration while there is free travel from Europe. the message from the public was clear: Brexit must mean control of immigration from Europe. Fairness also means guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU as soon as possible. As we transfer EU law into UK statute, workers' rights will be maintained.
  • 12:12
    The UK will pursue a 'bold and ambitious' free trading agreement with the EU. But that cannot mean membership of the Single Market. Being out of the EU but in the Single Market would mean not leaving the EU at all. That's why both sides in the Brexit campaign made clear leaving the EU meant leaving the Single Market.
  • 12:13
    May: I respect the position taken by EU leaders who have made their position clear, as I have made mine.
  • 12:13
    May: The days of Britain making vast contributions to the EU will end.
  • 12:16
    Since joining the EU, May says, UK international trade as a proportion of GNP has stagnated. She cites Donald Trump's comment that Britain is 'front of the line'. She says full Customs Union membership hinders British ability to trade. She wants some elements of the Customs Union removed, but wishes to retain others.
  • 12:18
    I have to admit I have no idea which of the 12 objectives we're on now. Co-operation with Europe on science and technology is being mentioned, then co-operation against crime and terrorism.
  • 12:20
    OK, apparently that's all the objectives. But hang on - May says there is one further objective. She wants an agreement within the two-year Article 50 process, then an agreement on phased arrangements, seeking to 'avoid a disruptive cliff-edge'.
  • 12:24

    So the snap headlines are:

    the UK will leave the Single Market  and jurisdiction of European Court of Justice. It will insist on its right to control travel from the EU but will seek to retain the Common Travel Area with Ireland. It will also seek to negotiate a more favourable customs agreement that will avoid tariffs. A series of phased arrangements in different areas are envisaged after the two-year Article 50 process is completed in 2019.

  • 12:29
    May says a punitive approach to negotiations by EU leaders would be an act of 'calamitous self-harm'. If Britain was excluded from the Single Market, it would require it to change its economic model. The EU, she says, would suffer greatly if Britain was excluded from the Single Market.
  • 12:30
    'I am confident a positive agreement can be reached,says May. ' We are a great global nation. The country is coming together.'
  • 12:32

    May says the vast majority of British people 'want us to get on with it, so that's what we will do.'

    'When future generations look back at this time, they will look back not just on the decision we made, but what we did with that decision.'

  • 12:33

    Questions from the press. BBC asks about her predictions before the Brexit vote that leaving the Single Market would leave Britain poorer.

    The prime minister avoids the question and talks about a brighter future.

  • 12:35
    Question about whether EU citizens might get any preferential treatment von immigration and residence. May says she recognises importance of Britain welcoming 'the brightest and the best', doesn't adress the EU citizens questions.
  • 12:37
    Le Figaro correspondent also asks about exemptions for some EU citizens. May responds equivocally. She's now being pressed again on whether she was wrong about her Single Market prediction. May says it's no secret what side she took in the campaign but the question now is what the opportunities are post-Brexit.
  • 12:38
    She's also asked what happens to the deal if Parliamnet votes against it. Will Brexit not happen? She says she's sure Parliament will support the government's proposal.
  • 12:39
    Theresa May wraps things up and leaves the room to a smattering of applause.
  • 12:45
    The recurring themes (well signalled in advance, to be fair) are a big-picture vision of 'global Britain', enhancing its trading relationships around the world and regaining control over its laws and borders. The withdrawal from the Single Market was well-flagged also, but now it's clearly on the record. The details of what happens to the Customs Union are a lot less clear. And there was a touch of that 'Fog in Channel. Continent Cut Off' headline about her dire warnings of the consequences for Europe if EU leaders try to hang tough in the negotiations.
  • 12:47
    The Irish government will take some consolation from what sounded like a firm resolve to find a workable solution to the questions of the Border and the Common Travel Area, but those questions about the Customs Union will be crucial to the former.
  • 12:48

    From PA:

    The pound has soared as Theresa May outlined her vision for how Britain should divorce from the European Union. Sterling rose almost 2 per cent against the US dollar, reaching 1.227. The pound rose as high as 1.145 versus the euro.

  • 12:55

    David Lamb, head of dealing at FEXCO Corporate Payments, comments:
    “The benign limbo is over. Emollient though it was, the Prime Minister’s speech left no room for doubt – Brexit will be hard and total.
    “Britain’s continued membership of the single market was always a long shot. In the end it was sacrificed on the altar of immigration control – the two were simply too incompatible.
    “The Pound rallied after today’s inflation figures and on Mrs May’s confirmation that both Houses of Parliament will have a vote on the final terms of Brexit. But reality will ultimately sink in.
    “So while sterling is enjoying a recovery from Monday's abrupt low against the Dollar, it is now more exposed than before. With any lingering hopes of a partial or fudged Brexit gone, the support that such comforting vagueness once provided has also evaporated.
    “While the Prime Minister talked of providing ‘certainty where possible’, she also vowed not to provide a running commentary on Brexit negotiations.
    “The information vacuum this creates will put the Pound even more at the mercy of rumours and skittishness than before. The result can only be continued volatility. Sterlingwatchers should buckle up – we should expect a bumpy road ahead.”

  • 12:58

  • 12:59
    What will a hard Brexit mean for your pocket? Conor Pope has the answers here.
  • 13:03

    Cliff Taylor writes
    " For Irish business, Britain leaving the single market will provide significant challenges. They will welcome Theresa May's commitment to maintain free trade. But will Europe allow Britain to retain the benefits of the customs union, while allowing it to go off and negotiate its own deals with countries such as the US and New Zealand? "

    Read Cliff's full article here.

  • 13:05

    Here are the 12 objectives laid out today by Theresa May

    We will provide certainty wherever we can.
    Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
    A stronger Britain demands that we strengthen the precious union between the four nations of the United Kingdom.
    We will deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the commons travel area with the Republic of Ireland.
    Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe.
    We want to guarantee rights of EU citizens living in Britain & rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can
    Not only will the Government protect the rights of workers set out in European legislation, we will build on them.
    We will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
    It is time for Britain to get out into the world and rediscover its role as a great, global, trading nation.
    We will welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.
    We will continue to work closely with our European allies in foreign and defence policy even as we leave the EU itself.
    We believe a phased process of implementation will be in the interests of Britain, the EU institutions and member states

  • 13:25

    Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on Theresa May's speech:

    'We welcome that the British prime minister today sketched out her government’s ideas about its departure and at last created a bit more clarity about the British plans. She has underlined that Great Britain is seeking a positive and constructive partnership, a friendship, with a strong EU. That is good.

    We also want a relationship that is as good, close and trusting and hope for constructive negotiations with this goal in mind. But our line and remains: negotiations will only begin when Great Britain has officially announced its desire to leave. Tomorrow we will vote in our Brexit cabinet committee on the German position during the upcoming negotiations.

    It is in Germany’s interest and in the interest of Europe to strengthen the cohesion of the European Union of 27 members and preserve the unity of the single market.'

  • 13:34

    The BBC reports Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has welcomed Theresa May's statement that Parliament will get a vote on the final Brexit settlement.

    But he has criticised what he said was an "implied threat" running through Mrs May's speech that the UK would adopt a different, low-tax economic model if it did not get what it wanted.

    He said the opposition would continue to make a case "for market access to Europe and regulation of labour markets".

    Mrs May has said she will leave the single market and, at the same time, has said she wants to have access to it. I am not quite sure how that is going to go down in Europe... She seems to be wanting to have her cake and eat it."

  • 13:38

    This from Reuters:

    Sterling saw its biggest gains since the 2008 financial crisis on Tuesday as Prime Minister
    Theresa May promised a parliamentary vote on Britain's deal to leave the EU and said it would seek to stay a key European partner. The pound, already up more than 1 percent as May began a keenly-awaited speech that had been extensively leaked to media, surged 2.5 percent on the day to a 10-day high of $1.2343 in the minutes that followed. It gained more than 1.5 percent to 86.69 pence per euro, with dealers reporting a widespread squeeze on short positions - or bets against sterling - taken in derivatives markets in the past few days. One media report at the weekend had quoted a Downing Street source as predicting May's speech would trigger a significant correction in the pound. Until Tuesday's action most had assumed that would be downward not upward. "
    Theresa May's greatest trick appears to have been to deliver what amounts to a fairly hard Brexit message without the markets going into a flat spin," said ETX Capital analyst Neil Wilson. "Some judicious leaks in the last couple of days had primed investors for the UK to be leaving the single market. Many expected a tough sounding speech that would send the pound lower." The FTSE 100 share index, which has tended to rise as sterling dropped in a series of sell-offs since the vote for Brexit last June, extended an early fall led by exporters and mining companies as May spoke.

  • 13:43

    The Guardian reports positive reactions to May's speech from two pro-Leave groups.


    Richard Tice, co-chair of Leave Means Leave, said:

    'No deal is better than a bad deal, the prime minister said today. We are delighted by this as Leave Means Leave have been saying since its formation that Britain must be prepared to walk away if the EU is not willing to secure a deal.

    We welcome her commitment to delivering the democratic will of the people and the tough position she has set out ahead of negotiations with the EU.'

    And this is from Change Britain, the group co-founded by Michael Gove

    'Theresa May’s announcement that the UK will no longer be a member of the EU’s single market provides certainty to both the British people and businesses. The public voted to take back control of our laws, borders, money and trade, and it is right that the Prime Minister is taking the necessary steps to achieve this. It will also enable businesses to start planning their future operations outside the EU. Politicians who insist on muddying the waters by trying to keep the UK inside the EU’s single market are only adding to business uncertainty.'

  • 13:52

    Here's Ben Wright of the BBC on what it all means:

    Today Chancellor Angela Merkel told German businesses that conditions for access to the single market could not be "loosened" otherwise every EU country would try and "cherry pick" a new deal. The big question is how flexible Theresa May's starting principles become when negotiations begin.
    And huge unknowns remain. What budget payments will the EU demand for single market access? Will EU workers have some freedom to work in the UK? Will the EU allow partial membership of the customs union?
    Today the Prime Minister painted a picture of an orderly Brexit conducted in the spirit of mutual self-interest.
    But divorce is rarely so smooth.

    Full article here.

  • 13:55

    Ireland will “vigorously pursue” businesses and EU agencies to move to Dublin in the wake of Theresa May’s hard Brexit vow.
    The Government welcomed the prime minister’s speech which, it said, gave greater clarity to what the UK is seeking.
    “The Government notes that the British approach is now firmly that of a country which will have left the EU but which seeks to negotiate a new, close relationship with it,” a Government spokesman said.
    “While this will inevitably be seen by many as a ‘hard exit’, the analysis across Government has covered all possible models for the future UK relationship with the EU.”
    The Irish Government said it is “very aware of the potential economic opportunities that may arise for Ireland” from Mrs May’s planned hard Brexit.
    This included shifting investment, business and job creation as well as luring EU agencies currently located in London — including the European Medicines Board and the European Banking Authority.

    Read more here.