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Thursday 14 December 2017

'No Brexit deal better than a bad one', says PM

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May has warned fellow EU nations she is ready to walk away from Brexit talks rather than accept a "punitive" deal.

In a speech setting out her 12 key objectives for EU withdrawal, Mrs May announced Britain will leave the European single market but will seek a "bold and ambitious" free trade agreement to allow it to continue doing business with its former partners.

The prime minister confirmed she wants to take Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and restore control over immigration.

She also gave her strongest hint yet that the UK could leave the EU customs union, stating she wanted to ensure "frictionless" cross-border trade but had an "open mind" on whether that should be done through associate membership or a completely new customs agreement.

Vote

Mrs May said British MPs and peers will be given a vote on the deal reached with the EU in Article 50 talks, due to be triggered by the end of March.

Britain's Brexit Secretary David Davis later told the House of Commons the vote would not be an opportunity for MPs to prevent withdrawal, as defeat for the government would not mean Britain staying in the EU but leaving without a deal.

Mrs May said she was "confident" a trade deal and a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU can be achieved within the two-year deadline set out in Article 50.

"I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.

"That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend," she said.

Warning

Declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain", Mrs May repeated British Chancellor Philip Hammond's warning that if Europe refused easy access to the single market, the UK could "change the basis of [its] economic model" - effectively becoming a low-tax, low-regulation haven like Singapore off the shores of Europe, competing for investment with its former partners.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn warned Mrs May would turn the UK into a "low-corporate taxation, bargain basement economy" if the EU did not give her what she wanted.

Official reaction from Europe was relatively muted, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying only that the remaining 27 members now had a "more realistic" view of Britain's goals.

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