In a much-anticipated speech in London on Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May committed to placing a final Brexit deal to a vote in both houses of the UK parliament, as she outlined for the first time her plan for extracting Britain from the European Union and said that once Britain had negotiated a final deal to leave the EU, it would be placed before the House of Commons and the House of Lords for approval.
In language that indicated a “hard Brexit”, May gave confirmation that Britain would leave the EU single market, which guarantees the free movement of goods, services and people within the bloc. She made it clear that her fundamental aim was to regain full control of immigration and lawmaking, and that leaving the single market was the inevitable consequence.
Britain could not be “half-in, half-out” of the EU, May said.
May also cautioned other EU member states not to seek a “punitive” deal for Britain in order to send a message to Euroskeptics in other countries. “Such a move would be a calamitous act of self-harm,” she warned.
“No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. However, she revealed that in the forthcoming negotiations with the EU, Britain would seek to arrange the replacement of provisions of the EU customs union. Such a deal could amount to “associate membership” of the customs union, she said.
The Prime Minister also revealed for the first time that the British government will put the final Brexit deal to a vote, which means that members of the UK parliament could, theoretically block the deal if they chose to do so. When asked by reporters what would happen in that scenario, she replied, “I am sure the British Parliament will want to deliver the views of the British people and respect the democratic decision that was taken.”
Negotiations on a deal cannot begin until the British government invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which sets the rules of EU membership. May has said she wants to trigger the mechanism by the end of March, and did not seek to alter that timetable in her speech.
In the next few weeks, the UK Supreme Court is due to rule on whether there must be another vote in the UK parliament before that can happen. Within two years, negotiations must then be concluded.