Prime Minister: UK to leave single market

The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has said the UK “cannot possibly” remain within the European single market, as staying in it would mean “not leaving the EU at all”.

Theresa May promised to push for the “freest possible trade” with European countries and warned the EU that to try to “punish” the UK would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”.

The PM used her much-anticipated speech to announce her priorities for Brexit negotiations, including maintaining the common travel area between the UK and Irish Republic and “control” of migration between the UK and the EU.

It was not her intention to “undermine” the EU or the single market, Theresa said, but she warned against a “punitive” reaction to Brexit, as it would bring “calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe and it would not be the act of a friend”.

She added: “I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.”

Following months of uncertainty since the EU Referendum, the announcement has finally shed some light on the kind of trade relationship that the UK will have with the rest of Europe, causing much discussion within the construction sector.

Julia Evans, BSRIA chief executive, commented: “It is fair to say that BSRIA members and the industry at large will welcome the greater clarity and the aspiration to create a more affluent, flourishing, open and global Britain, with the freest possible trade between the UK and the EU. Indeed, May said Britain wants to trade with the EU ‘as freely as possible’ but will not be ‘half-in, half-out’.

“But ruling out membership of the Single Market has reduced opportunities for continuing a barrier-free trading relationship between the UK and the EU. Therefore, government must now deliver these aims and achieve a smooth and systematic exit.

“As previously stated – Brexit must not become all-consuming, and we must ensure that industry has employees with the right skills to be able to create the right infrastructure and business environment across the UK.

“On immigration, May said the government would seek to guarantee the rights of EU citizens living and working in Britain.

“However, if citizens of the EU-27 are subject to future restrictions, a straightforward and light-touch system is crucial. Bringing EU nationals into the costly and bureaucratic Home Office work permit system can be an immense regulatory burden for many members, especially when their immediate skills shortages continue to be critical.”

RIBA president, Jane Duncan, praised Theresa May for her speech commenting: “I welcome the Prime Minister setting out further details on the UK’s relationship with the EU. After the referendum vote, we outlined a number of key priorities to allow for the continued success of our industry. This included ensuring that the UK could access the best global talent and fill skills gaps, allowing a continuation of vital UK/EU partnership work in research and innovation, and recognising the need to further devolve powers to support a better built environment across the UK. I’m pleased to see the Government recognise how vital such measures are to UK success.

“However, continued uncertainty over the status of EU citizens currently living and working in the UK, and of UK citizens living and working in the EU is casting a long shadow over the architecture sector. Around one quarter of ARB registered architects are EU citizens, and they make a substantial contribution to our vital industry.

“Our Government and governments across the EU must act swiftly to resolve this issue. Stability for the economy must continue to be the Government’s top priority over the coming months and years. The detail of the UK’s new trading relationships with the EU and with partners across the world is what will drive the success of our sector. I urge this government to continue its dialogue with industry so that we can secure the best deal for all.”