British Prime Minister Vows 'Hard Brexit' From European Union

Theresa May
Theresa May / AP
October 3, 2016

British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Sunday the United Kingdom could be moving toward a "hard Brexit" from the European Union with negotiations beginning in late March.

May told delegates during the Conservative Party’s annual conference that U.K. control over the nation’s borders and immigration would be a primary priority during withdrawal negotiations, the New York Times reported.

"We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully independent, sovereign country," May said to applause. "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.

Talks with the remaining EU member states will adhere to a two-year deadline unless all 27 members unanimously decide to extend negotiations.

May had previously said negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaty wouldn’t begin before the end of this year, which allows the government more time to establish its negotiating position.

May said she wanted "maximum" access for British countries to trade within the EU’s single market, but that national legislation must come before EU law. She also discussed severing free-trade deals with new partners and suggested that Britain would leave Europe’s Customs Union, which establishes uniform tariffs among all member states.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told the Sun on Saturday that the exit strategy was "having our cake and eating it."

President of the European Central Bank Mario Draghi said Britain should not be granted special access to the bloc’s single market when May goes through with Brexit.

"Any outcome should ensure that all participants are subject to the same rules," he told the Times.