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UK will take no deal over a bad deal, May warns Europe

By Andrew Woodcock

Theresa May has warned fellow EU nations she is ready to walk away from Brexit talks rather than accept a "punitive" deal.

In a speech setting out her 12 key objectives for EU withdrawal, the Prime Minister announced the UK will leave the European single market but will seek a "bold and ambitious" free trade agreement to allow it to continue doing business with its 27 former partners without having to pay "huge sums" into EU budgets.

Mrs May confirmed she wanted to take Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and restore control over immigration.

She gave her strongest hint yet that the UK could leave the European customs union (CU), stating she wanted to ensure "frictionless" cross-border trade but had an "open mind" on whether that should be done through associate membership or a completely new customs agreement.

She announced MPs and peers will be given a vote on the final deal reached with the EU in Article 50 talks, due to be triggered by the end of March.

Brexit Secretary David Davis later told the Commons the vote would not be an opportunity for MPs to prevent withdrawal, as defeat for the Government would not mean Britain staying in the EU, but leaving without a deal.

Mrs May said she was "confident" a trade deal and a new strategic partnership between the UK and the EU can be achieved within the two-year deadline set out in Article 50, insisting a good deal for Britain will also be good for Europe.

She warned: "I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path.

"That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe. And it would not be the act of a friend."

Declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain", Mrs May repeated Chancellor Philip Hammond's warning that if Europe refused easy access to the single market, the UK could "change the basis of (its) economic model" - effectively becoming a low-tax, low-regulation haven like Singapore, off the shore of Europe, competing for business and investment with its former partners.

Mrs May said her plan would create "a truly global Britain... a great, global trading nation that is respected around the world".

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