Tuesday 25 April 2017

Theresa May denies 'muddled thinking' by British Government over Brexit

British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) is interviewed by Sophy Ridge on Sky News in London during their Ridge on Sunday programme. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
British Prime Minister Theresa May (left) is interviewed by Sophy Ridge on Sky News in London during their Ridge on Sunday programme. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Jack Maidment, Press Association Political Staff

THERESA MAY has denied her Government is suffering from "muddled thinking" over Brexit.

The British Prime Minister insisted she will be able to secure control over immigration to the UK as well as favourable trading terms with the European Union during Brexit negotiations.

Mrs May used her first broadcast issue of the New Year to reiterate her belief that the trade versus immigration control issue is not "binary".

Mr May said: "Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU.

"We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.

"So the question is what is the right relationship for the UK to have with the European Union when we are outside.

"We will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws.

"This is what people were voting for on June 23. But of course we still want the best possible deal for us, companies to be able to trade, UK companies to be able to trade in and operate within the European Union and also European companies to be able to trade with the UK and operate within the UK."

The potential shape of the UK's Brexit deal has dominated the domestic political landscape since the UK voted to the leave the European Union on June 23 last year.

Critics believe it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the Government to secure access to the single market while also demanding full control of the UK's borders.

But Mrs May said: "It's wrong to look at this as just a binary issue as to either you have control of immigration or you have a good trade deal.

"I don't see it as a binary issue. We will outside the European Union be able to have control of immigration and be able to set our rules for people coming to the UK from member states of the European Union but we also as part of that Brexit deal will be working to get the best possible deal in the trading relationship with the European Union."

Sir Ivan Rogers, the UK's former top EU diplomat, shocked Westminster and Brussels with his resignation from the role on Tuesday.

Mrs May was asked during her interview on the Sophy Ridge On Sunday show on Sky News if Sir Ivan's assessment, set out in an email to staff, that there was "muddled thinking" over Brexit was accurate.

She said: "Not at all and if I can just come back to the last point just to reiterate this last point because I think it's very important.

"Anybody who looks at this question of free movement and trade as a sort of zero sum game is approaching it in the wrong way.

"I'm ambitious for what we can get for the UK in terms of our relationship with the European Union because I also think that's going to be good for the European Union.

"Our thinking on this isn't muddled at all.

"Yes, we have been taking time, I said we wouldn't trigger Article 50 immediately, some said we should, Jeremy Corbyn said we should, but actually there hadn't been any plans made for Brexit so it was important for us to take some time to actually look at the issues, look at the complexity of the issues, and that's why as I say we didn't trigger immediately but we will trigger by the end of March this year."

Mrs May said she was concentrating on "not the means to the end but what the outcome is" as she looks ahead to negotiating the UK's divorce from Brussels.

She said: "What people want is for us to focus on the right outcome for the UK.

"Actually there will be a variety of ways in which we get there but people who simply talk about issues around membership of the single market, access to the single market, are looking at the means.

"I'm looking at the outcome."

The Prime Minister said she was aiming to deliver a "really good, ambitious trade deal" that allows UK companies to "trade in and operate in the European single market".

Mrs May's comments on Brexit negotiations come after reports that Sir Ivan criticised the Prime Minister's approach to Brexit with her predecessor weeks before he quit.

The diplomat, who has resigned from the civil service with immediate effect after leaving the post in Brussels, held talks with David Cameron before Christmas during which he voiced concerns that the Prime Minister risked heading for a "disorderly" exit from the EU.

Sir Ivan has told friends he fears a so-called hard Brexit would lead to "mutually assured destruction" for the UK and EU, The Sunday Times reported.

Sir Ivan is being succeeded by career diplomat Sir Tim Barrow, a former ambassador to Russia who has been described by No 10 as a "seasoned and tough negotiator" who will help the Government make a success of Brexit.

In a fiery message to staff announcing his resignation from the Brussels post, Sir Ivan had hit out at the "ill-founded arguments and muddled thinking" of politicians and said civil servants still did not know the Government's plans for Brexit.

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