London is in a tricky position going into the Brexit negotiations. Since roughly 44 percent of its exports go to the European Union — the source of about 53 percent of its imports — the United Kingdom will likely try to maintain as much access to the bloc's markets as possible. But membership in the EU internal market entails accepting workers from countries in the European Union. This is a sticking point for British voters in the "leave" camp and for British Prime Minister Theresa May's government, which has promised to reduce immigration by withdrawing from the union. If the United Kingdom closes its borders to EU workers, however, the European Union is unlikely to grant it continued access to the internal market for fear that other countries would try to follow its example.
In a televised interview on Sunday, May offered some insight into her plans for navigating the difficult negotiations ahead. The prime minister clarified that her administration is not interested in trying to "keep bits" of the United Kingdom's EU membership and has prioritized recovering full control over its immigration policies in its negotiations with Brussels. Her statements suggest that London will renounce its membership in the EU internal market in favor of a trade agreement with the Continental bloc. Negotiating such a deal will not be easy, but it could pave the way for other member states thinking of leaving the bloc to keep their economic ties with the European Union regardless of membership status.