British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that she wanted a Brexit deal which offered “maximum freedom” to operate in Europe’s single market but also emphasised she wanted control over immigration.
The demands are contradictory for European leaders, who have emphasised that access to the single market is dependent on allowing free movement of workers.
“I want to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within the single market and let European businesses do the same thing here,” Ms May told the Conservative party conference. But she added: “We are not leaving the European Union only to give up control of immigration all over again and we’re not leaving only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice”.
Ms May told delegates in Birmingham, central England on Sunday that she would trigger negotiations with Brussels to leave the EU before the end of March, opening the door for a possible withdrawal in early 2019.
The announcement sent the pound plunging against the euro and dollar but stocks have soared since a weaker pound has helped boost British exporters.
“It’s going to be a tough negotiation,” Ms May said. While she has given little away about her negotiating strategy, her government is seen by analysts as moving towards a “hard” Brexit, which could involve limited, if any, access to Europe’s single market.