May ready to accept hard Brexit

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to indicate her willingness to accept a “hard” Brexit outside the EU single market when she makes a key speech on her negotiating plans on Tuesday, according to British media. May is expected to say she is prepared to leave the single market to allow Britain to control the migration of EU citizens, according to The Sunday Telegraph and The Sunday Times. The Telegraph quoted sources as saying she will say Britain must have full control of its borders after the departure, in what the newspaper called a “big gamble on a clean Brexit.”

It warned that her position “risks exposing deep splits” in May’s ruling Conservative Party. The Times said May’s speech will “make clear that the UK is set to pull out of the single market and the European customs union in order to regain control of immigration and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.” “May’s hard Brexit stance will put her on a collision course with former ministers on the Tory (Conservative) back benches who believe the UK should stay in the single market,” it said. Former minister and pro-EU Conservative lawmaker Nicky Morgan said May’s Brexit negotiations should prioritise “maximum participation”in the single market.

“The government will be doing a disservice to the country and to both Leave and Remain voters if it dogmatically pursues a hard, destructive Brexit where immigration control is the be all and end all, our economy is undermined, and people are left poorer,” the BBC quoted Morgan as saying. Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told German newspaper Weltam Sonntag that he hoped post-Brexit Britain “will remain in the mainstream of European economic and social thinking,” but that it could follow a “different” economic model if it fails to secure concessions from the other 27 EU nations.

“If we have no access to the European market, if we are shut out when Britain leaves the European Union, without an agreement on market access, then we could suffer some short-term economic damage,” Hammond said. “In this case we might be forced to change our economic model, and we would have to change our economic model in order to recover our competitiveness.” Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC that Hammond’s comments, implying Britain could cut corporation tax to boost its post-Brexit economy, could be a “recipe for some kind of trade war with Europe.”

Deputy Labour leader John McDonnell said the Conservatives’ Brexit plans could turn Britain into “a tax haven off the coast of Europe.” May has said she plans to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the rules for a two-year negotiating process for a nation leaving the EU, by the end of March. The Supreme Court, Britain’s highest court, is scheduled to issue its decision this month on the government’s appeal against a High Court ruling that May must consult parliament before triggering Article 50. — DPA