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Minister's comments on Brexit single market exit played down

Published 27/10/2016

Lord Owen said the UK had to be able to start negotiating international trade agreements before exit from the EU
Lord Owen said the UK had to be able to start negotiating international trade agreements before exit from the EU

Downing Street has moved to play down comments by a senior Government minister that leaving the EU will also mean Britain leaving the single market.

No 10 warned that negotiations on the terms of Britain's withdrawal from the EU had not even started after Scottish Secretary David Mundell made his comments in the Scottish Parliament.

Appearing before the Holyrood parliament's Europe Committee, Mr Mundell insisted the UK would still be able to enjoy tariff-free access to EU markets from outside the single market.

"I accept on one level, if we are leaving the EU the essentially we are leaving the single market but access to the single market can, I think, continue in a way that doesn't involve tariffs or barriers," he told MSPs.

A No 10 spokesman refused to endorse his remarks, insisting that Theresa May was committed to securing the "best possible deal for Britain" outside the EU.

"Clearly we haven't started the process of exiting the EU yet. We will be triggering Article 50 at some stage in the first quarter of next year. Clearly we will engage in a process with the EU. Issues like that will form part of the dialogue," the spokesman said.

"What is important - as the Prime Minister herself has set out on many occasions - is as we go through the process of negotiation we get the best possible deal for trade in goods and services within Europe and with Europe."

Previously when Brexit Secretary David Davis said it was "improbable" Britain could take control of its borders and still remain in the single market, he was slapped down by No 10, with a spokeswoman saying he was "setting out his views" and not expressing Government policy.

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