LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered a speech on Friday setting out her priorities for Brexit ahead of negotiations this year to forge a new relationship with the European Union.
Following is a summary of the main points made by May in her speech.
May stuck to her position that Britain and the EU should aim for a new kind of trade deal after Brexit. The EU’s existing agreements with Norway and Canada were unsuitable because they would hurt supply chains and make it hard to keep an open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, she said.
May said a Brexit deal could and should be part of Britain’s new relationship with the EU, pushing back at the refusal of Brussels to allow Britain to pick and choose which part of the bloc’s single market it wants to keep access to if it does not agree to continue free access to Britain for EU workers and other core principles.
May said that her finance minister Philip Hammond would provide details next week, but said that London would seek a “collaborative, objective framework.”
May said London and Brussels were close to agreeing the terms of an implementation, or transition, period after Britain’s scheduled departure from the EU in March next year.
May said Brexit would not put at risk the progress made on securing peace in Northern Ireland and she said Britain and the EU had a joint responsibility to find a solution over how to avoid a hard border between the British province and Ireland.
Any hard border or a customs border in the Irish sea, between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom, which broke up the country’s national common market, was unacceptable, she said.
The prime minister said Britain would continue to be affected by decisions of the European Court of Justice and the country’s courts would look at ECJ interpretations of laws to ensure consistency. But the ECJ could no longer be the ultimate arbiter of the law in Britain after Brexit.
May said Britain might choose to remain in step with EU state aid and competition rules after Brexit. In the areas of workers right and the environment, there would be no race to the bottom, she said.
Standards in Britain should remain “substantially similar” in future, she said, attempting to straddle the divide within her own Conservative Party over how far the country should go with setting its own rules for business in future.
May stuck to her position that Britain would leave the EU’s customs union, as well as its single market, in order to pursue its own trade deals with other countries around the world.
She said a customs partnership could keep the same border tariffs for goods intended for the EU but different ones for those going into the UK.
Alternatively, there could be a streamlined customs arrangement, where jointly implemented measures would minimize frictions to trade, with additional specific measures for the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The prime minister said Britain wanted to discuss with the EU how it could remain part of key EU agencies such as the ones covering the chemicals, medicines and aerospace industries, a move likely to be welcomed by companies in those sectors who have worried about the cost of replicating the EU systems. Britain would follow the rules of the agencies and make a financial contribution for being part of them, May said.
May said Britain and the EU would need an arrangement on data protection and it would have to be more than just an adequacy arrangement which is a status granted by the EU to countries outside the European Economic Area which provide a level of personal data protection that is “essentially equivalent” to that provided in European law.
Writing by William Schomberg; editing by Michael Holden and Alistair Smout