Theresa May today refused to confirm the UK is set to leave the Single Market, despite once again vowing to take back control of immigration policy in any Brexit negotiation.
Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, the Prime Minister reiterated her view that outside of the EU the UK would be able to “set our own rules” on immigration.
May appeared confident that the UK could enjoy tariff free access to the Single Market as well as regaining control of immigration policy as part of a Brexit deal with the EU.
However, European leaders, including Germany’s Angela Merkel, have repeatedly insisted that membership of the Single Market means accepting freedom of movement rules.
Today, the Prime Minster was challenged to admit that with immigration controls her priority, the UK would be leaving the Single Market if EU leaders refused to budge on free movement.
She replied: “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.”
Prominent Remain and Leave campaigners interpreted May’s interview as showing the UK would indeed be leaving the Single Market, which gives businesses tariff-free access to 500million people across the continent.
Lib Dem leader Tim Farron said: “Theresa May has confirmed she is taking us towards a disastrous hard Brexit that will leave our country poorer and more divided.
“Reckless plans to leave the Single Market would deal a huge blow to jobs, investment and the public finances, meaning less funding for services like the overstretched NHS.”
Leave campaigner Richard Tice, who helped found the Brexit campaign groups Leave.EU and Grassroots Out, also believed May was prioritising immigration control over Single Market membership.
He said: “We welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to taking back control of Britain’s borders therefore ending preferential treatment for EU citizens.
“She is right that issues of trade and immigration are not binary because when Britain leaves the single market and the customs union, though freedom of movement will cease, Britain’s ability to trade with the EU and access the single market will continue.”
However, some MPs were left none the wiser about May’s Brexit plan after the interview:
May confirmed in the interview that she would be setting out her vision for Brexit in greater detail in the upcoming weeks.