In a landmark speech today, British prime minister Theresa May publicly confirmed that the UK will leave the European Union’s single market, the world’s biggest trading bloc, when it quits the group after more than four decades.
The market reacted quickly to May’s long-awaited detailed Brexit plans.
Sterling climbed 2.5 percent against the dollar. Such a big jump in a single day was last recorded in October 2008.
Speaking to an audience at Lancaster House in London, May outlined her twelve key priorities for the EU negotiations.
She said that the UK will continue to make an “appropriate contribution” to the EU budget, but not “vast contributions.” She also said that parliament will vote on a final deal with the EU before it comes into force.
Diehard brexiteers rejoiced as May revealed the details of her Brexit plans, but others expressed concern at the potential implications of a clean break from the EU.
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British businesses still in the dark
May’s speech did not provide any real insight into how the Brexit negotiations will unfold, according to Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), a network representing thousands of businesses across the UK.
“In business, what you achieve in a negotiation – not what you bid for – is what really matters,” he said. “The Brexit process is no different. While businesses now have a clearer sense of the Prime Minister’s top-line priorities, they will come away from her speech knowing little more about the likely outcome of the Brexit negotiations than they did yesterday.”
Nigel Farage welcomes “real progress”
Former UK Independent Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage, the avid Brexit campaigner, applauded May’s strong negotiating stance.
He didn’t miss the opportunity to mention that the British prime minister was only now expressing views he himself had put forward years ago.
I can hardly believe that the PM is now using the phrases and words that I’ve been mocked for using for years. Real progress.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) 17 January 2017
UKIP MP Douglas Carswell told BBC Radio 5 live he was “really, really pleased” with May’s speech, arguing her comments could “win over some of the remainers too.”
Boris hails a “global Britain”
British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson posted a 41 second video on Twitter, referring to May’s speech as “fantastic.” He said that the UK will “take back control of our borders and loads of money that we currently send to the EU”.
Hi folks, here’s my reaction to the Prime Minister’s fantastic speech on Brexit pic.twitter.com/BzYrizwISp
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) 17 January 2017
UK will become a tax haven, says Corbyn
Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of turning Britain into a “bargain basement tax haven on the shores of Europe.”
— Jeremy Corbyn MP (@jeremycorbyn) 17 January 2017
Scotland pushes for IndieRef2
May’s speech further exposed national tensions within Britain. Scottish voters backed remaining in the EU by 62 percent to 38 percent in last year’s referendum.
In a statement released after the prime minster’s speech, Nicola Sturgeon. Scotland’s first minister said a hard Brexit would be “economically catastrophic”.
“The UK government cannot be allowed to take us out of the EU and the single market…without Scotland having the ability to choose between that and a different future,” she added.
“With her comments today, the prime minister has only succeeded in making that choice more likely.”
Ireland fears instability
The Irish government expressed anger at May’s comments today.
“Her intentions to leave the Single European Market and her intentions to leave the customs union are going to have a detrimental impact on the economy in the north and across this island,” said Sinn Féin MLA, John O’Dowd.
“It’s clear today from Theresa May’s Brexit statement that the views and opinions of the people of north have been completely ignored.”
The Irish business sector shared the government’s sentiment, hailing a period of uncertainty.
“This is an aggressive move by the UK, showing little regard for our trading relationship and for relations with other EU member states,” said Danny McCoy, chief executive of Ibec, the business and employer association for organisations based in Ireland.
“Theresa May has signalled a change to the UK business model, away from a collective European rules-based approach, towards a more nationalistic, isolated stance.”
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