Britain will leave the European Economic Area (EEA), or Single Market, after Brexit, a cabinet minister says, seemingly putting an end to one of the most heated debates surrounding the country’s withdrawal from the EU.
Robin Walker, a junior Brexit minister, said that the UK’s membership would “automatically” end after leaving the EU,The Sun reported Thursday.
“As the UK is party to the EEA agreement only in its capacity as an EU member state, once we leave the European Union the EEA agreement will automatically cease to apply to the UK,” he said.
According to the report, this is the first time that a government minister publicly confirms Britain’s divorce from the single market, which allows countries around Europe to trade across borders as easily as they do within their own country.
Retaining access to the single market has been one of the major worries for UK businesses ever since the country voted to leave the EU in a referendum on June 23.
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May says that in order to maintain access to the single market, the UK should loosen its borders to meet certain EU immigration standards.
However, Brexit supporters have strongly opposed that strategy, saying they prefer less immigration to single market access.
Walker’s comments came weeks after Brexit Secretary David Davis said London may pay in order to maintain its access to the EEA.
London seems to be serious about paying to preserve the right since Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond backed the Brexit minister’s proposal.
The British government said earlier this month that it was not willing to reveal the contents of its negotiations with the EU.
May has pledged to officially begin the process by March 2017 and finish it in two years, provided that a legal dispute between the government and the MPs resolves by then.
Meanwhile, Britain’s access to the single market was further complicated on Thursday, when four anonymous campaigners launched a new bid at London’s High Court to retain the UK’s access even after Brexit.