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May ready for tough talks over Brexit

May ready for tough talks over Brexit
By Catherine Hardy with Reuters
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The UK prime minister says she is ready for some "difficult moments", but will fight to remain part of the bloc's single market.

  • May warns talks may take “some time”
  • Eased concerns over a “hard Brexit”
  • Claims landmark CETA deal has collapsed

Theresa May has warned Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU will take some time.

The UK prime minister says she is ready for some “difficult moments”, but will fight to remain part of the bloc’s single market.

It was May’s first European Council since becoming prime minister after the UK voted to leave the EU in June.

She made it clear that she hoped some of the most complicated talks London has ever undertaken will be held in a constructive manner.

“Obviously, we have got negotiations ahead of ourselves. Those negotiations will take time, as I say, there will be some difficult moments, we are going to need some give and take,” May told a press conference.

A hard Brexit?

Having earlier provoked concern among stakeholders that she was heading for a “hard Brexit”, May moved to ease concerns.

She said she wanted the best trade deal possible.

A so-called “hard Brexit” would mean a clear break with the single market to control immigration.

“We are not looking to adopt another model that somebody else has in relation to their trade with the European Union,” May said. “What we want is to develop what is a new relationship for the UK with the EU,” she continued, outlining her aim for a bespoke deal.

“We want to have the best possible deal for trade in goods and services with, and operation within, the single European market.”

The timeline

Once May gives formal notice that Britain is leaving – by March, she has said – the EU Council will meet at 27, minus May, to set negotiating guidelines for the Commission.

Donald Tusk will be arbiter of what deal Britain is offered, but the Council has less than a tenth of the Commission’s 33,000 staff to work on the details.

Saving sterling

Sterling fell on fears that Britain was heading for a “hard Brexit”.

May, and some of her more eurosceptic ministers, have worked hard to reassure business and EU leaders that her policies will not hurt the economy.

What is the single market?

Envisioned as a single territory without any internal borders or regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services, the EU single market accounts for:

  • 500 million customers
  • 21 million small and medium-sized businesses

CETA in trouble?

Theresa May’s comments come amid reports that a landmark trade deal between the EU and Canada has collapsed.

The Commercial and Economic Trade Agreement – CETA for short – would remove tariffs from the sale of many goods between the 28 EU member states and Canada.

Some are watching the negotiations closely, seeing it as a precursor to the UK’s Brexit negotiations.

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