The British people voted in a free and fair referendum to leave the EU and the Government has a duty to deliver the referendum result in the national interest. No Prime Minister or party in British history has ever received as many votes as the vote to leave did.
Article 50 has been invoked and the Prime Minister has been clear that there must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum. The UK will leave the EU in March 2019 and its membership of the single market will end at this point. An implementation period will allow businesses time to adjust but it will be strictly time-limited. There should be no doubt that the UK is leaving the EU and its institutions.
I am pleased that the Government has now reached agreement with the European Commission on citizens' rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement. The European Council has also said that sufficient progress has been made to move on to the second phase of the negotiations on the UK and the EU's future relationship.
Both the UK and the EU have secured reciprocal rights for British citizens in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK. A new settled status scheme will be introduced for EU citizens and their family members, covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and enshrined in UK law. The scheme will provide a transparent, smooth and streamlined process which will include the appropriate criminality checks.
EU citizens are an integral part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of our country and I have always been clear that their rights needed to be secured. Applicants who already have five years' continuous residence in the UK will be immediately eligible for settled status. Those who arrived before the specified date but do not yet meet the five-year threshold by exit day will be allowed to stay until they reach that milestone and can also secure settled status. Those EU citizens who are granted settled status will be treated like a comparable UK national, entitled to broadly the same rights and benefits.
While Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, the UK as a whole voted to leave. The UK Government recognises the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and it is working closely with the Northern Ireland Executive as it negotiations the UK's withdrawal from the EU. Northern Ireland will leave the EU single market and customs union with the rest of the UK.
The Government wants to make sure that Europe remains strong, prosperous and capable of defending itself. That is why I am glad that a key negotiating objective is to continuing working with the EU to fight terrorism, uphold justice and preserve European security. This will be achieved through a deep and special partnership with the EU.
It is interests of all European people that security cooperation between the UK Government and the EU is maintained. New and dynamic arrangements should be imbedded in a treaty that sets out details on security, law enforcement and criminal justice. It should also facilitate an ongoing dialogue and be sufficiently flexible to respond to evolving threats.
Leaving the EU and we are taking control of our borders, money and laws. In doing so that means the end of the jurisdiction of the ECJ over the UK. In order to provide maximum certainty for businesses and citizens the Government has proposed a time-limited and formally agreed implementation period of around two years. I believe that this is in the interests of both the UK and the EU, but this is a matter for negotiation.
The Department for International Trade has established a series of working groups and high-level dialogues with key trading partners, to explore the best ways to progress our trade and investment relationships with countries outside of the European Union (EU).
Leaving the EU cannot mean membership of the EU's single market. This would involve accepting its four freedoms: the movement of goods, services, capital and people. It would also mean complying with the EU's rules and regulations with no say over them. By remaining a member of the single market, the UK would effectively not be leaving the EU at all. It would mean less control for the UK not more.
Trade with Europe will not cease after we leave the EU. Through future trade agreements, the Government will seek the broadest possible access to the single market. I do not believe that anyone would benefit from imposing tariffs where none exist at the moment and EU businesses have signalled that they also want as frictionless trade as possible. A survey conducted by the Council of British Chambers of Commerce in Europe recently found that 92 per cent of EU firms did not want the EU to negotiate a deal that increased barriers to trade with the UK.