UK's May ready for tough talks, but will fight over EU market

October 21, 2016 9:00 AM EDT

British Prime Minister Theresa May (L) is welcomed by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at the EC headquarters in Brussels, Belgium October 21, 2016. REUTERS/Yves Herman


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By Elizabeth Piper and Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Prime Minister Theresa May said on Friday Britain's negotiations to leave the European Union would take time and that she was ready for some "difficult moments", but would fight to remain part of the bloc's single market.

At her first European Council since becoming prime minister after Britain voted to leave the bloc in June, May made clear that she hoped that some of the most complicated talks London has ever undertaken will be held in a constructive manner.

"Obviously we've got negotiations ahead of ourselves. Those negotiations will take time, as I say, there will be some difficult moments, we are going to need some give and take," she told a news conference.

Having earlier provoked concern among investors, businesses and in EU capitals that she was heading for a "hard Brexit", or clear break with the single market, to control immigration, May moved to ease concerns. She said she wanted the best trade deal possible.

The former interior minister also reiterated that she wanted a bespoke deal for Britain as it leaves the European Union.

"We are not looking to adopt another model that somebody else has in relation to their trade with the European Union. What we want is to develop what is a new relationship for the UK with the EU," she said.

"We want to have the best possible deal for trade in goods and services with, and operation within, the single European market," she said.

The term "operate within" the single market is a new incantation for May, who since becoming prime minister has been focused first on shoring up support in her ruling Conservative Party before launching the negotiations with the EU.

Envisioned as a single territory without any internal borders or regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and services, the EU single market accounts for 500 million consumers and 21 million small and medium-sized companies.

After sterling fell on fears that Britain was heading for a "hard Brexit", May, and some of her more euroskeptic ministers, have worked hard to reassure business and EU leaders that her policies will not hurt the economy.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper and Robin Emmott, editing by Alastair Macdonald)



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