Belfast Telegraph

UK's Brexit stance unclear after general election, says EU Parliament president

Britain's Brexit negotiating position is unclear after a general election which dealt a heavy blow to Theresa May's authority and in which the Tories lost their parliamentary majority, the president of the European Parliament said.

Antonio Tajani suggested the result had empowered supporters of a "softer" Brexit in the Government, such as Chancellor Philip Hammond, and has left the UK with a more "flexible" approach to its divorce with the European Union.

He raised the possibility of Britain staying in the European single market after the two-year Article 50 exit talks, which will end on March 29 2019 or before.

Mr Tajani said an agreement similar to those enjoyed by Switzerland or Norway was "possible to do", adding: "It's possible to decide on this after a negotiation."

Switzerland and Norway are not in the EU but both participate in the single market having signed up to the "four freedoms" required, including the free movement of citizens.

Such a deal could see a key plank of the Prime Minister's strategy - to leave the single market to gain control over immigration - torpedoed.

Mr Hammond remains committed to leaving the single market, despite his calls for a Brexit deal which puts "jobs first".

But Mr Tajani told BBC Newsnight : "The problem is what Mrs May and what the UK Government want to do - (do) they want to leave Europe and nothing more, or (do) they want to have closer cooperation ... the example is the cooperation between Europe and Norway.

"But nobody knows.

"Before the election the May position was very strong.

"Now I think in the UK the situation, the opinion is more flexible, (that's) my point of view.

"During the negotiation it's possible to combine, to decide.

"I think we don't have a final position (from) the UK.

"If the UK want to achieve another agreement it's possible to do it but we need to ask the European Union."

Mr Tajani added: "For this I think it's important to know the real position of the UK."