May says Britain prepared to leave EU with no deal

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British Prime Minister Theresa May (Xinhua file photo)



British Prime Minister Theresa May gave her clearest indication so far on Monday that Britain would be prepared to leave the European Union with no deal.

Addressing MPs in the House of Commons on the first day back after the conference season, May said achieving a special partnership after Brexit will require leadership and flexibility, not just from Britain, but from the 27 nations of the EU.

"As we look forward to the next stage, the ball is in their court. But I am optimistic it will receive a positive response," May told MPs in her first parliamentary statement since her big speech last month in Florence.

May added: "What we are seeking is not just the best possible deal for us, but I believe that will also be the best possible deal for our European friends too. Progress will not always be smooth but by approaching these negotiations in a constructive way in a spirit of friendship and cooperation and with our sights firmly set on the future, I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong."

In her statement, May said the British government had published Monday two new policy consultation statements on trade and customs.

"These pave the way for legislation to allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation and to create an innovative customs system that will help us achieve the greatest possible tariff and barrier-free trade as we leave the EU," said May.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party, responded to May's speech by saying that 16 months on after the referendum, no significant progress has been made.

The government is no closer to deciding what it wants, said Corbyn.

May's statement came as the fifth round of negotiations between Britain and the EU started in Brussels.

Brexit Secretary David Davis sat alongside May as she delivered her statement, with Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson seated some distance away.

Some media observers speculated this could be significant after calls on May to fire or demote Johnson.

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