Britain’s decision to leave the European Union will also mean leaving the single market, one of Prime Minister Theresa May’s cabinet ministers said on Thursday.
“If we are leaving the EU, we are leaving the single market,” Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell told Scottish lawmakers at a special hearing on the implications of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
The implications of Britain’s EU exit upon its access to the bloc’s 500-million consumer single-market remain unclear.
Businesses and financial markets fear that if Britain loses unfettered access to the single market the economy will suffer, and fears that it may do so have sent the pound sharply lower.
Mundell told a devolved Scottish parliamentary committee that Britain’s future relationship with the EU would not replicate current structures.
His comments touch upon one of the biggest unknowns thrown up by the June EU referendum – wat type of trading relationship does Britain want with its biggest economic partner?
Mundell has a seat at May’s cabinet table but is not considered one of her closest advisers.
To date, May has indicated that she wants a bespoke deal that allows Britain to end free entry of EU nationals into the country – a demand which is widely seen by other EU states as scuppering the possibility of full access to the single market.
May told parliament this week that access to the single market was important, without saying what form that access would take.
“I have been clear…(about) the importance that we place on being able not just to trade with but to operate within the European market, and that is for both goods and services,” she said.
The centuries old union between England and Scotland has been strained by the result of the June referendum because Scotland voted to stay in the EU while England voted to leave.
The devolved Scottish government has set free movement of goods and services as a central demand in talks which will shape Britain’s new relationship with the bloc.
Nicola Sturgeon, the head of Scotland’s devolved government, has called for a “coalition” across Britain in support of single market membership, and says that if Scotland’s links to the EU are not maintained as part of a Brexit deal a referendum to split Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom is an option.
Mundell did not answer a question on whether he still supported Britain remaining in the single market, replying that he was committed to achieving the best possible deal by getting Scotland to work together with London.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Elisabeth O’Leary; Editing by Angus MacSwan)