Theresa May’s Brexit Speech – Your Questions Answered
Following Theresa May’s speech outlining her objectives for Brexit on Tuesday, many feel confused. Are we leaving the customs union? Has the Prime Minister guaranteed the rights of EU nationals living in the UK? How does the government plan to control EU migration?
This article is designed to clarify some of these questions as much as possible. Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers and many issues are still as yet unclarified. But where possible, our Immigration solicitors will do their best to provide reassurance in these uncertain times.
Following the speech, Immigration lawyers continued to emphasise that the best course of action for EU nationals living in Britain to take is to apply for an EU permanent residence Card and/or British Citizenship immediately.
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Is the UK leaving the single market?
Yes, there is now no doubt that the UK will no longer be part of the EU in any way. In her speech, Mrs May rejected the idea of Britain copying a Norwegian or Swiss model of single market membership. We will no longer pay fees to the EU or be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
What about the customs union?
Here’s where things become murky.
A customs union is a form of trade agreement between two or more countries, designed to make it easier to trade by reducing administrative and financial trade barriers such as customs checks and encouraging economic cooperation.
It means they decide not to impose tariffs (taxes on imports) on each other's goods and agree to impose common external tariffs on goods from countries outside their customs union.
However, they also limit the freedom of their individual members to strike their own trade deals. And this is proving to be a sticking point for the British government. In her speech, Mrs May indicated that she wanted to foster a strong trading relationship with Europe and keep barriers to trade to a minimum. This may mean negotiating a new customs union with the bloc.
What did the Prime Minister mean when she said “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”?
Commentators have taken this quote to mean that if the EU tries to punish Britain by refusing to offer agreeable terms, Britain will simply leave the EU with no trade deal in place and revert to standard World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.
The Guardian has reported that the prime minister told EU counterparts that any attempt to inflict a punitive outcome on the UK would be an “act of calamitous self-harm” because it would then slash taxes to attract companies from across the world.
Did Theresa May guarantee the rights of EU nationals currently living in the UK?
No. She stated that she wanted to sort out the rights and residency status of EU nationals currently living in the UK as soon as possible, but she accused some EU nations of refusing to offer similar guarantees to British people living in the bloc.
Immediately after the speech, a joint statement was issued by the3million – which campaigns to preserve the rights of British citizens in Europe and Europeans in the UK after Brexit – and several migrant rights groups, which said:
“It is extremely disappointing that the Prime Minister has not used this speech as an opportunity to unilaterally guarantee that all European citizens or those living in the UK under the protection of EU treaty rights will have the right to remain here after Brexit.
“All EU citizens’ resident in Britain should get a firm assurance in law that they will be able to continue living in the UK, with exactly the same rights of residence as they have now.
“This should happen no later than the moment at which Article 50 is triggered to end the uncertainty that millions of our family members, our friends, our colleagues and our neighbours are experiencing."
What can EU nationals living in the UK do to protect their rights?
The best step EU nationals could take is to contact an Immigration solicitor and apply for an EU permanent residence Card. Applicants must have been living in the UK for five or more years and exercising their Treaty rights as an employee, student, self-employed or self-sufficient person. If you are a student or self-sufficient, for example a full-time mother, you must have comprehensive sickness insurance.
Britain and the EU is entering a time of great uncertainty. As the process of leaving the EU develops, more questions will emerge. We will do our best to answer these as and when we can.
OTS Solicitors is regarded as one of the best Immigration law firms in the UK. If you need advice on any Immigration law matters, please phone our office on 0203 959 9123 to talk to one of our dedicated Immigration lawyers.