03 October 2016
EU exit talks to start by March as Theresa May underlines immigration message
Theresa May has put Britain on track for a "hard Brexit" by the spring of 2019, insisting she will not accept any limits on the UK's ability to control its own borders.
The Prime Minister says Article 50 will be invoked "soon", and no later than the end of March next year, declaring that the UK will "make our own decisions" on immigration.
European Council President Donald Tusk said other EU states would act to safeguard their own interests, while Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat - who will be president of the Council when Mrs May kicks off talks by invoking Article 50 of the EU treaties - said the single market's four freedoms of goods, services, capital and people "cannot be decoupled".
Taking the unusual step for a Tory leader of addressing the annual Conservative conference on its opening day, Mrs May confirmed plans for a Great Repeal Bill to overturn the 1972 Act which took the UK into what was then the European Economic Community.
And she rejected the argument Britain must choose between "hard Brexit" - in which the nation regains control over immigration but loses full access to the European single market - and "soft Brexit", under which access to the single market comes with a requirement to allow free movement of EU workers.
To loud applause, Mrs May said: "We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully independent, sovereign country.
"We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron branded Mrs May's announcement a "disaster" that would mean "no single market for Britain".