UK Politics

PM Theresa May meets Tory MEPs over Brexit 'red lines'

Syed Kamall
Image caption Syed Kamall said Theresa May was clear that "Brexit means Brexit

PM Theresa May has met Conservative MEPs to discuss "red lines" in negotiations about the UK's EU exit.

Speaking after the meeting at Number 10, Tory MEPs' leader Syed Kamall said there would be "months of preparation" before the formal exit process began.

Meanwhile, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK must accept EU rules "without exception" if it wants full single market access.

Free movement of people is one of the core principles underpinning the union.

Mr Juncker's comments - which follow a similar warning by French President Francois Hollande - appear to be a setback to hopes the UK could maintain tariff-free trade with the EU while imposing immigration controls.

Speaking after the the meeting with Mrs May, Mr Kamall, the pro-Brexit leader of Conservative MEPs in the European Parliament, said the PM - who campaigned for Remain - was clear "Brexit means Brexit".

He said she wanted to draw upon their "expertise" ahead of the "tough and detailed" negotiations on Brexit.

'Meaningful negotiations'

He said: "We were starting to talk about the different areas of negotiations, not coming to any conclusions yet.

"I don't think you can say what will be and what won't be on the table. Neither side really have agreed their red lines. The British Government needs to discuss its red lines across all departments.

"At the same time in Brussels they haven't decided what their red lines will be in any negotiations."

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Juncker said single market access meant accepting EU rules

Mr Kamall said he did not know how long the process would take, and that the meeting between Mrs May and Tory MEPs could be the first of many.

"I think at the moment we need these months of preparation before Article 50 is invoked so we can start discussing what both sides' red lines will be before we get in to meaningful negotiations."

'Right deal'

Mrs May held talks on Brexit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Francois Hollande in her first overseas visit as prime minister last week.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Hollande said Britain faced a choice, "to remain in the single market and then assume the free movement that goes with it or to have another status".

His comments were echoed on Monday by Mr Juncker who told French TV channel France 2: "It's not a hard line, it's common sense. It reflects the philosophy of the European project itself."

"The day after the Brexit vote, I said - along with president (Donald) Tusk of the European Council and president (Martin) Schulz of the European Parliament that this was the position of the EU.

"No access to the internal market if you do not accept the rules - without exception or nuance - that make up the internal market system."

Mr Juncker also said he would have liked formal Brexit talks to begin as soon as possible but he understood the UK government will need "several months to fine tune its position".

"I would have liked the UK to present us with its resignation letter as soon as possible, because I would have expected that the British, especially those who wanted to leave the EU, would have prepared themselves for this possibility. Well, that wasn't the case."

Mrs May has emphasised her commitment to implementing Brexit since becoming PM but she has said the UK will not begin formal Brexit talks until it has established its negotiating position.

She has said the UK vote to leave the EU sent a "very clear message that we should introduce some controls to the movement" of EU citizens coming to the UK but that she also wants to "get the right deal on the trade in goods and services".

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