Theresa May expected to signal willingness for Hard Exit from EU


Tories prepared to leave Single Market, Customs Union, and European court

THE TORY PRIME MINISTER’S new year address on Brexit has signalled that limiting migrants’ rights will be the top priority in negotiations. 

In heavily spun lines to Sunday newspapers, Tory officials said they would be willing to leave behind the key European economic structures linked to billions of pounds in exports if that was required to end the principle of free movement of people from the rest of the EU. 

The move is the first concrete principle of negotiating strategy after over seven months of speculations including vague buzzwords such as “Brexit means Brexit” and a recent suggestion from May that the process will be “red, white, and blue”. 

However, the uncertainty is set to continue – as the willingness for a hard Brexit is contingent on the response of EU negotiators on the issue of free movement. 

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Tomorrow (Tuesday 17 January) May is expected to say: “Now we need to put an end to the division and the language associated with it – leaver and remainer and all the accompanying insults – and unite to make a success of Brexit and build a truly global Britain.”

In an unparalleled admission in recent political history, Downing Street also told the Sunday Times that the speech was likely to cause a slump in the value of the pounds sterling – which has taken repeated nose dives since the vote to exit the EU. 

Although any Hard Brexit outside the EU single market and customs union for goods, services, capital, and people is dependent on negotiations, a wide variety of EU sources have been clear that freedom of movement cannot be separated from the single market currently in place across 30 states. 

Last week German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the single market is “only possible” when it includes freedom of movement.

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The same view has been echoed by lead European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt and EU Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

May’s speech tomorrow will be an opening salvo ahead of a two year negotiating period after the expected triggering of Article 50 in March. 

Although it’s possible that a transition period to agree a future relationship on trade could be necessary beyond the two year period. 

The prospect of a Hard Brexit also ramps up expectations for a fresh referendum on independence.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a second vote was “highly likely”, and predicated such a vote on an extreme-right exit from the EU. 

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In response, Sturgeon said: “It’s looking like Brexit will mean a low tax, de-regulated race to the bottom, with workers’ rights, environmental protection, etc. under threat. If that is the case, it raises a more fundamental question – not just are we in/out EU – but what kind of country do we want to be?”

Scottish Green MSP Ross Greer said: “This idiocy would absolutely justify an independence referendum.”

Tory MP Anna Soubry added: “To go into the negotiation conceding on the single market & the customs union is extremely serious & very bad news.”

The Brexit process has already faced numerous crisis even before formal talks, including a defeat for the Tory Government in the High Court, challenges from Northern Ireland and Scotland, leaked memos predicting the process will be difficult, and the resignation of lead UK ambassador to the EU Ivan Rogers. 

Picture courtesy of Policy Exchange

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