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PM and ambassador react to Theresa May Brexit speech

UK Prime Minister Theresa May during Tuesday's speech
UK Prime Minister Theresa May during Tuesday's speech / Agencies
  • Mariano Rajoy advised "caution" until Article 50 is triggered, while Simon Manley was quick to reassure business leaders

Simon Manley, the UK's Ambassador in Spain, and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, have both reacted to the speech Theresa May made on Tuesday in which she announced plans for the UK's departure not only from the European Union, but also the Single Market.

In a letter to members of the British Chamber of Commerce in Spain, Manley outlined the key points from Theresa May's speech and invited members to put foward their questions or comments in order to "maintain a dialogue about our vision for the United Kingdom". The communication sought to reassure members that the UK was "a more united, safe, prosperous and tolerant country than ever, which is more focused on external relations than ever before". The letter went on to say that Spanish investment and bilateral trade, "are going to grow".

Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy reacted by saying that the four pillars of European free movement (people, goods, services and capital) go together and that the EU "won't let the UK disassociate them".

He added that Spain would act "with caution", until May formally triggers Article 50 and referred to the different models of relationships that exist between the EU and countries such as Norway, Switzerland and Canada. He urged that the final outcome of Brexit should be, "as similar as possible", to the existing relationship and that he was, "disposed to good understanding", between to the two countries in the future.

The contents of Theresa May's speech provided the clearest signal yet of the direction the government wishes to take with the negotiations. Although the decision to leave the Single Market was seen as the 'hard Brexit', that many feared, a number of key business leaders said that they welcomed the speech as long-awaited clarification of the government's objectives.

The 42-minute speech included 12 priorities for the UK, one of which is to maintain the rights of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU.

May said, "We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can," adding, "I have told other EU leaders that we could give people the certainty they want straight away and reach such a deal now."