segunda-feira, 16 de janeiro de 2017

Theresa May’s Brexit plan: what we know so far / Britain's May to call for national unity in major Brexit speech

Theresa May’s Brexit plan: what we know so far
Already there are strong hints about the sort of deal UK prime minister would like
YESTERDAY by: Henry Mance, Political Correspondent

On Tuesday, the UK prime minister will make a speech setting out her Brexit plan, having promised to do so before she triggers the Article 50 process for leaving the EU. The event will take place at Lancaster House in London, in front of an audience of ambassadors, high commissioners and civil servants. She is not expected to go into great detail but already there are strong hints about the sort of deal she would like to negotiate.

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Does Mrs May want to keep Britain in the EU single market?

She has not said so explicitly. But since October, she has emphasised two “red lines” for negotiations: Britain will not “give up control of [EU] immigration”, and will not “return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”. Since both are conditions of the single market, it looks highly unlikely Britain will seek to remain a member. Many commentators expect Mrs May to confirm this on Tuesday.

What about the customs union?

The customs union is a single trading area where goods from within and outside the EU circulate freely. Again, there has been no explicit statement so far. This question is more complex than that of single market membership — senior members of the government, including the chancellor Philip Hammond, are in favour of staying in the customs union. Downing Street has also suggested it is not a binary in/out question.

When will Article 50 be triggered?

By the end of March, the government insists. There are two obvious challenges. One, the Supreme Court may rule this month that parliament must hold a parliamentary vote before it triggers Article 50. Two, there will be an assembly election in Northern Ireland within weeks, unless a new deputy first minister can be found by 5pm on Monday. The government insists neither will affect its timetable.

When will Britain leave the EU?

Mrs May said in December that she would not look to extend the two-year timetable set down in Article 50. That would mean Britain leaving the EU by the end of March 2019.

Will there be a transition deal?

It depends on how you define a transition deal. Mrs May has said that the government “will discuss whether we need an implementation phase”. This implies a period after leaving the EU to enact rules already agreed upon. That contrasts with another definition — a holding period while a permanent EU-UK trade deal is negotiated.

How does Mrs May want to control immigration?

She has ruled out a points-based visa scheme — as advocated by Vote Leave, the main Brexit campaign group — but not outlined her preferred alternative. One strong possibility is a system of work visas.

Will Britain continue to pay into the EU budget after Brexit?

In December, Mr Hammond said Britain “wouldn’t rule out the possibility of some ongoing contribution in some form if we have an ongoing relationship”.

Will Mrs May give more detail before March?

Aides say Tuesday’s speech is her “plan”. That suggests limited extra detail on the UK’s objectives.

Britain's May to call for national unity in major Brexit speech

By Estelle Shirbon and William James | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May will use a major speech on Brexit next week to call on Britons to reject the acrimony of last year's referendum and unite around the vision of a Britain more open to the world, her office said on Sunday.

May intends to kick off the formal process of negotiating the terms of Britain's exit from the European Union by the end of March, but has given little away about what deal she will be seeking, frustrating some investors, businesses and lawmakers.

She is due to make a speech in London on Tuesday before an audience including foreign diplomats as well as Britain's own Brexit negotiating team and other senior officials, May's Downing Street office said in a statement.

It said she would stress the need for Britons, who voted for Brexit by 52 to 48 percent in last June's referendum after a deeply divisive campaign, to unite around common goals such as protecting and enhancing workers' rights.

"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," May is expected to say.

Her comments came as finance minister Philip Hammond said Britain could change its economic model to regain competitiveness if it were to leave the EU without an agreement on market access.

Those comments, from an interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, were interpreted as a warning that Britain could use its corporate tax as a form of leverage in Brexit negotiations.

"He appears to be making a sort of threat to the European community," said Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party. "It seems to me a recipe for some kind of trade war with Europe in the future."

Nevertheless, Corbyn said he would not block the triggering of 'Article 50' - the legal process of leaving the EU. An upcoming legal ruling could insist that May gets parliamentary approval for her plan to trigger Article 50 by the end of March.


The extracts of May's speech did not say whether she would reveal her stance on one of the key questions: whether she will try and keep Britain within the European single market or customs union or, if not, what level of access she will aim for.

The Sunday Times and other newspapers said the speech would signal that Britain was seeking a "clean and hard" Brexit, which would involve leaving the single market and the customs union.

The report cited an unnamed source in May's office who said her words were likely to cause a market correction. A spokesman from May's office told Reuters the reports were speculation and did not comment further.

The problem for Britain is that the EU is likely to insist on freedom of movement for EU citizens in return for full access to the single market, while many of those who voted for Brexit did so precisely in order to be able to restrict immigration.

May's speech will be closely watched by financial markets for information on which of these divergent goals she will prioritize.

After she said in a TV interview a week ago that post-Brexit Britain would not be able to keep "bits" of its EU membership, the pound fell sharply as the comment was interpreted as signaling a clean break from the single market.

In a separate Sunday Times article, Brexit minister David Davis wrote that Britain would consider ways to extend or smooth the exit process to provide certainty for businesses.

(Editing by Gareth Jones and Susan Fenton)

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