PM in pledge to produce a 'Brexit that works for ordinary people'

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Theresa May has vowed to create a "Brexit that works for ordinary people" as she prepares to publish the Government's industrial strategy next week.

The Prime Minister urged people to "stop fighting the battles of the past" and accept the UK is going to leave the European Union, insisting Brexit could make the UK stronger and fairer.

Mrs May said the modern industrial strategy was part of her plan to turn post-Brexit Britain into a "great meritocracy" and create a "more united nation".

Writing in The Sun, Mrs May said: "This is a time to stop fighting the battles of the past and look to the future.

"It is a time to be bold, confident and ambitious about seizing the opportunities that Brexit can bring."

She said her Brexit plan - leaving the single market but seeking a comprehensive free trade deal with Brussels - would result in a "new and equal partnership between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU".

But the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt warned it was an "illusion" to suggest the UK could leave the EU but retain the benefits of tariff-free trade.

Mrs May, who is keen to ensure her administration is not dominated by Brexit, said her approach was part of a wider plan "to shape the country we want to be when we have left the EU".

She said: "Our modern industrial strategy, which we will publish next week, will lay the foundations to build a more prosperous and more equal Britain.

"We will spread wealth and opportunity across every community. And we will help young people to develop the skills they need to do the high-paid, high-skilled jobs of the future.

"We will create a fairer society by breaking down the barriers of privilege and making Britain a great meritocracy where success is defined by work and talent, not birth or circumstance.

"This will include going further in reforming our schools and ensuring that every child has the opportunity to thrive in a post-Brexit Britain."

The Prime Minister will attempt to reassure nervous business chiefs about her plans for Brexit at the World Economic Forum in Swiss ski resort Davos.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "I think it will be an opportunity for her primarily to engage with a wide range of business leaders and inward investors from around the world, talking to them about the Government's plan for Brexit, the type of relationship we will be seeking with the EU moving forward, the opportunities of strengthening our trading relationships with other countries and the benefits that that can bring for business."

The Davos gathering has already seen bankers raise the prospect of jobs moving from the UK to other EU member states amid fears about the impact of Brexit.

HSBC boss Stuart Gulliver indicated 1,000 jobs from the bank's London business are on course to move to Paris while Switzerland's UBS is also preparing to move posts from the UK to the continent.

In her landmark Brexit speech on Tuesday, Mrs May raised the issue of the financial-services sector, hinting the free trade agreement she hopes to strike with Brussels could "take in elements of current single market arrangements".

Access to the single market is a key factor for overseas firms basing their European operations in the City.

Mrs May is expected to use the annual Davos gathering to speak to Wall Street bosses about the issues they face amid reports Goldman Sachs is considering moving hundreds of jobs from London to New York and Frankfurt.

Writing in the Guardian, Mr Verhofstadt said no-one in the EU wanted to "punish" the UK.

But he said "it is an illusion to suggest that the UK will be permitted to leave the EU but then be free to opt back into the best parts of the European project, for instance by asking for zero tariffs from the single market without accepting the obligations that come with it".

Meanwhile, attempts to bridge the divide between the Westminster government and the devolved administrations over Brexit will continue in London.

Before a meeting of ministers from the devolved governments, Scottish Secretary David Mundell said: "As we leave the EU, the UK Government is committed to securing a deal that works for all parts of the UK. It is only by coming together that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead."

Scottish ministers published plans at the end of last year outlining proposals to protect Scotland's place in Europe, including an option for the country to remain in the European single market even if the rest of the UK leaves it.

Mr Mundell said: "We are grateful to the Scottish Government for their paper, and look forward to hearing more detail. We won't agree on everything, but we are looking at their proposals carefully, and today's discussion will be an important part of that."