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Theresa May: Britain needs clear negotiating stance before article 50

May said it was not possible to set an "absolute deadline" and if she were to be the next prime minister she would not invoke article 50 before the end of the year. Photograph: (Getty)

Reuters London, United Kingdom Jul 03, 2016, 01.00 PM (IST)
Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May, a candidate in the contest to be the UK's next prime minister and leader of the Conservative party, said today that if she became the next premier she would not trigger article 50 this year to ensure a clear negotiating stance on a post-Brexit deal with the European Union.

May is a front-runner in the contest to be the country's next prime minister but said that there should still be an election within the party rather than a "coronation" of the most popular candidate.

"I think there should be a contest. I think it's important that members have their opportunity to have their say. And I think that what people want to hear is what the arguments are and people putting those arguments together and this isn't a new position that I've taken," she told journalist Robert Peston.

Prime Minister David Cameron resigned after Britons voted to leave the EU on June 23. He had led the campaign for "Remain" alongside May.

May said that the vote was a "very clear message" that the British public wanted control over immigration.

"What I know is that there's no single silver bullet that actually solves the problems and concerns people have on immigration," she told Peston on Sunday. "The Brexit vote gave us a very clear message from people that we couldn't allow free movement to continue as it had done hitherto, we need to bring control into movement of people coming into the UK from the EU."

Cameron has said his successor would have to decide when to trigger article 50, the formal step that will begin the process of negotiating the terms of Britain's exit.

May said it was not possible to set an "absolute deadline" and if she were to be the next prime minister she would not invoke article 50 before the end of the year.

"We need to establish our own negotiating position. Of course, once we hit Article 50, once we invoke that the process at the EU level starts, they say that could take up to two years. What's important for us though is that we get the right deal. And that's a deal which is about controlling free movement but it's also about ensuring that we've got the best deal possible in trading goods and services," she said.

Work and Pensions Secretary, Stephen Crabb, was the first Conservative minister to put himself forward to succeed Cameron and also backed Remain during the referendum campaign.

But he said that his party must unite despite a majority of his colleagues supporting Leave.

"Every day that goes by, the longer that we as colleagues use labels like Remain or Leave to describe each other, the deeper the division that will be in the party," he told ITV. "And I tell you, if we allow this leadership contest to be seen just through the prism of whether you were leave or remain, we risk splitting the party, mark my words."

(Reuters)
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