Theresa May preparing 'ultimatum' to EU over immigration controls, according to reports
The Prime Minister is thought to be prepared to to prioritise immigration controls over single market membership
Theresa May - Jonathan Brady/PA
Theresa May is preparing to give an ultimatum to the European Union that the UK will quit the single market unless it is allowed to opt out of free movement rules, according to reports.
The Prime Minister will make a major speech later this month on her vision for the UK after Brexit in which she will make explicit that curbs on immigration are a red line in the upcoming negotiations, according to the Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper reports she will say that the Government is ready to give up its membership of the single market if it cannot secure a satisfactory deal on border controls.
One unnamed minister told the newspaper: “She needs to make clear that Britain is prepared to leave the single market or they [the European Union] will try to screw us down.
“She needs to send a strong message ahead of the negotiations. Britain can always say we would like access to the single market but not full membership.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis are said to be contributing to the content of the speech, but fellow Brexiteer and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox is reportedly being side-lined.
The upcoming speech, which could come after the Supreme Court's verdict on whether Parliament needs to be consulted before Article 50 is triggered, is being pitched as Mrs May's response to complaints that there are no details on the Government's Brexit plan.
Politicians pushing for a so-called ‘soft Brexit’, which would see the UK remain a member of the single market and customs union after leaving the EU, have responded with alarm to the reported ultimatum.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna, in a statement put out by the Open Britain campaign, said: “Leaving the single market would be catastrophic for the UK economy, jobs and businesses. So the Prime Minister should not allow the likes of Nigel Farage to dictate her position.
“The PM should be ambitious for our country and set as her goal single market membership with new immigration arrangements that give us more control, meet the needs of our economy and can command widespread support.
“Making unnecessary threats that will result in economic self-harm is the last thing the Government should be doing - it is not a competent way to negotiate in the national interest. We should be building alliances, not alienating our closest and largest trading partner.”
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