The value of the pound slumped on Monday after the British Prime Minister Theresa May seemed to indicate she would be prioritising regaining control of immigration during the negotiations for the UK to leave the European Union.
Sterling slid one percent against the dollar and the euro to its lowest in 10 weeks.
May’s comments – during an interview on Sky TV on Sunday – sparked fears that the UK will lose trade access to Europe’s single market – the so-called ‘hard Brexit’.
Immigration and trade were two of the central issues in the referendum that led to the Brexit vote last June.
On Monday she was asked if her comments had been interpreted wrongly and insisted she had said nothing new in that interview.
May insisted her remarks were being over-interpreted: “I’m tempted to say that the people who are getting it wrong are those who print things saying I’m talking about a hard Brexit, [and that] it is absolutely inevitable there’s [going to be] a hard Brexit.”
Hard Brexit is a reference to Britain leaving the EU’s single-market and customs union, without negotiating a free trade agreement with Brussels. Business say that would damage the UK’s economy by breaking links with the single market of 500 million consumers.
On Monday May said: “I don’t accept the terms hard and soft Brexit. What we’re doing is going to get an ambitious, good and best possible deal for the United Kingdom in terms of trading with and operating within the single European market.”
She went on: “It’s a new relationship, we’ll be outside the EU, we will have a new relationship but I believe that can be a relationship which has a good trading deal at its heart.”
Despite her reassurances the pound stayed low against the dollar and euro.
Theresa May does not want to be defined by Brexit https://t.co/c78QPZc1Be— POLITICO Europe (@POLITICOEurope) January 9, 2017