Gulf widening with Scotland
May edging UK closer to ‘hard Brexit’ from EU
Prime Minister denies ‘muddled thinking’
Prime Minister Theresa May edged Britain closer to a ‘hard Brexit’ today, widening the gulf between Westminster and the Scottish government.
Mrs May argued in an interview that she does not consider it possible to “keep bits of membership” of the European Union.
She says the British public voted to withdraw from the EU, which did not mean holding on to certain EU benefits and disregarding others.
Speaking on Sky News, Mrs May insisted she will be able to secure control over immigration to the UK as well as favourable trading terms with the EU during Brexit negotiations.
She also denied claims the government is crippled by “muddled thinking” over the issue of Britain’s future relationship with the EU
She said: “Often people talk in terms as if somehow we are leaving the EU but we still want to kind of keep bits of membership of the EU.”
“We are leaving. We are coming out. We are not going to be a member of the EU any longer.
“So the question is what is the right relationship for the UK to have with the European Union when we are outside.
“We will be able to have control of our borders, control of our laws.
“This is what people were voting for on June 23. But of course we still want the best possible deal for us, companies to be able to trade, UK companies to be able to trade in and operate within the European Union and also European companies to be able to trade with the UK and operate within the UK.”
Her comments are likely to widen the gulf with Holyrood where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon insisted she was “not bluffing” over her threat to hold a second independence referendum if the UK did not negotiate for a “soft” Brexit, or continued access to the single market and customs union.
Immigration high on agenda
Mrs May’s primary demand appears to be controlling immigration. Critics believe it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the UK Government to secure access to the single market while also demanding full control of the UK’s borders.
Mrs May insisted this was not a matter of one or the other. “It’s wrong to look at this as just a binary issue as to either you have control of immigration or you have a good trade deal,” she said.
“We will, outside the European Union, be able to have control of immigration and be able to set our rules for people coming to the UK from member states of the European Union but we also, as part of that Brexit deal, will be working to get the best possible deal in the trading relationship with the European Union.”
She said she would set out her strategy for Brexit over the coming weeks, denying suggestions she was “muddled” in the pursuit of what she called the right relationship with the EU.
“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.
“Our thinking on this isn’t muddled at all.”
Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Andrew Marr she felt the prime minister had “no plan” in terms of her strategy for the UK leaving the EU.
She said she was prepared to compromise and wants Mrs May to do the same.
The UK government has said a special deal for Scotland is unrealistic.
Commenting on Ms Sturgeon’s interview, Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “This is yet another attempt by the SNP to sow division and uncertainty, at a time when the country needs to pull together more than ever.
“On Friday the First Minister hinted that she was backing away from another vote, yet today she is again threatening to impose a second independence referendum on the people of Scotland.
“Nicola Sturgeon could provide much needed clarity on Scotland’s future by ruling out another independence referendum altogether.
“With power returning from Brussels, it is now clear that we need a People’s Constitutional Convention and a new Act of Union to reform where power lies across the whole of our country, and to save the Union from the threat of the SNP and the Tories who risk pulling it apart.”