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Theresa May seeks strong EU ties, clean break, in Brexit deal

Prime Minister Teresa May promises a parliamentary vote on Britain's final deal to leave the European Union and stresses it would seek to remain a key European partner as she sets out her priorities for divorce talks.

U.K. prime minister confirms final agreement will be put to both Houses of Parliament

May: 'It remains...in Britain's national interest that the E.U. should succeed' 0:22

Prime Minister Teresa May on Tuesday promised a parliamentary vote on Britain's final deal to leave the European Union and stressed it would seek to remain a key European partner as she set out her priorities for divorce talks.

May outlined what she called "a carefully considered" framework, with 12 objectives, which she said would "leave the EU a success" through a new comprehensive free trade agreement with the United Kingdom.

However, she said the U.K. won't "hold on to bits of membership," nor seek associate or partial membership of the bloc.

May said Britain plans to make a clean break from the European Union and not opt for "anything that leaves us half-in, half-out."

Both Houses of the U.K. Parliament will be able to vote on the final divorce deal reached between the U.K. and European Union before it comes into force, she confirmed.

WATCH: British PM Theresa May speech re: Brexit 41:23

However, she did not address what would happen should there be a vote against the agreement.

May has said she will trigger the formal process to leave the trade bloc by the end of March. Britain's Supreme Court is expected later this month to rule on whether Parliament must have a say in the matter.

Britain will have two years to negotiate a deal after that.

Clarity on process 'crucial'

She said Britain will forge a "new and equal partnership" with Europe and that it's "crucial" that her Brexit negotiating team "go for certainty wherever we can" during the process.

"We seek a new and equal partnership, between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU," May told an audience of foreign diplomats and Britain's Brexit negotiating team.

May: 'We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement' 0:48

"Not partial membership of the European Union, associate membership of the European Union, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. 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."

Setting out her vision for Britain, May said she wanted her country to emerge "stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than before." 

One objective is making sure the U.K. has control over immigration from the rest of Europe. She said Britain is an "open and tolerant country" but it needs control over the number of people entering the country.

"When the numbers get too high, public support for the system falters." 

For EU citizens currently in the U.K., she said she wanted to reassure them that their rights as workers would be protected in the Brexit deal, as would be the rights of U.K. workers in EU member states.

The pound has been at some of the lowest levels in more than three decades over the past week, but as the British prime minister promised to work on a strong trading relationship with EU countries, the pound rose two per cent Tuesday to reach $1.2278 US at its peak. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

Britons' vote to leave the bloc has opened a huge number of questions about immigration and the future rights of the many EU citizens already living in the United Kingdom.

May said she wants Britain to be a "magnet for international talent" and a "great, global trading nation" that reaches beyond Europe to build relationships with other countries around the world. She said it's in Britain's national interest for the EU to succeed.

"We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship," she said.

Her government has come under fire from investors, businesses and legislators for so far revealing little about the future relationship she will seek when she begins formal divorce talks by the end of March.

But in her speech, May promised to provide all partners in the talks "with as much certainty as possible" before a final deal comes into force.

Pound rises as Brexit details unveiled

As she delivered her speech, the pound jumped by the most since June's Brexit referendum.

The pound, already up more than one per cent per cent as May began to deliver her speech surged two per cent on the day to reach $1.2278 US at its peak. It also gained around 0.8 per cent to 87.36 pence per euro, 
reflecting a broader sell-off in the U.S. dollar globally driven by concerns over Donald Trump's upcoming presidency.

Czech Secretary of State for European Affairs Tomas Prouza called May's speech "thorough," writing on Twitter. "At least now we know what U.K. wants #HardBrexit," but he also said her plan seems a "bit ambitious" and lacks give and take in equal measure.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Water Steinmeier said Germany is pleased May "has finally created a little more clarity about the British plans."

"She has underlined that Great Britain is striving for a positive and constructive partnership, a friendship, with a strong EU. That is good."

"We too want the best, closest and most trusting relationship and wish for constructive negotiations with this goal. But our line is, and remains: the negotiations can begin only when Great Britain has given official notification of its desire to leave," Steinmeier said.

The Republic of Ireland's government issued a statement saying it welcomes U.K. support for the status quo for travel between the two countries.

Indian billionaire Sunil Mittal said he's optimistic his country and the U.K. will be able to reach a trade deal with Brexit in place. He said the U.K.'s membership in the EU has prevented that.

U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May appeared to be warning that she was ready to turn the U.K. into a "low-corporate taxation, bargain-basement economy off the shores of Europe" if the EU doesn't give her everything she wants.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron called the speech "a mixture of vague fantasies and toothless threats to our nearest neighbors."

 

With files from CBC News and Reuters

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