But just minutes earlier, Mrs May had expressed optimism that Britain would be granted access to the economic club, hinting that a bespoke Brexit deal could be in the pipeline.
“I don’t accept the terms ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit.
“What we are doing is going to get an ambitious, good, the best possible deal for the United Kingdom in terms of trading with, and operating within, the single European market.”
“We will be outside the European Union, and therefore we will be negotiating a new relationship, across not just trading but other areas, with the European Union.”
However, her positive outlook for Britain’s future relationship with the Brussels bloc was dealt a bitter blow by the hardline German Chancellor.
Mrs Merkel struck back, saying: “We will have to talk about restricting access to the EU single market.”
She added: “We also make clear on the other hand that access to the single market can only be possible on the condition of respecting the four basic freedoms. Otherwise one has to talk about limits of access.”