UK Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday said the UK will be leaving the European Union single market within two years, but implementation of any Brexit deal would be 'phased' to avoid a "cliff edge", while revealing that talks on new trade deals with countries like India are in the works.
In her much-anticipated Brexit speech in London, May also said that the both houses of the British parliament will vote on any final Brexit agreement, amid pressure from lawmakers to have more say over leaving the 28-nation economic bloc.
She set out 12 negotiating objectives for Brexit, which stated that the UK would pursue a fresh tariff-free trade agreement with the EU.
"I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market. It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all. And that is why both sides in the referendum campaign made it clear that a vote to leave the EU would be a vote to leave the single market," she said in her address at Lancaster House to senior officials working on Brexit and representatives from around the world, including Indian High Commissioner to the UK Y K Sinha.
"We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe. Countries including China, Brazil, and the Gulf States have already expressed their interest in striking trade deals with us.
"We have started discussions on future trade ties with countries like Australia, New Zealand and India. And President-elect (Donald) Trump has said Britain is not 'at the back of the queue' for a trade deal with the United States, the world s biggest economy, but front of the line," May said.
Her 12 objectives broadly covered aspects of certainty; control over own laws; strengthening the union; maintaining the common travel area with Ireland; control of immigration; rights for EU citizens in Britain and British nationals in the EU; protecting workers rights; free trade with European markets; new trade agreements with other countries; making UK the best place for science and innovation; cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism; and smooth and orderly Brexit.
"We seek a new and equal partnership between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU. Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out," she said.
"We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave. The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. My job is to get the right deal for Britain as we do," she added.
The approach has been widely characterised as a "hard Brexit", which would take the UK out of the current tariff- free EU single market and the customs union it shares within the economic bloc.