UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, today delivered her much anticipated speech on the UK leaving the European Union outlining 12 objectives she hopes will deliver the fairest deal for Britain as it negotiates it’s EU departure. She also confirmed that the UK Government will vote on the agreement reached, setting aside the concerns of those who insist Parliament has the final say.
Right from the start of her speech, Mrs. May delivered on her promise that ‘Brexit means Brexit,’ announcing that the UK will no longer be part of the European Single Market; the European Court of Justice or possibly not even the European Customs Union – making it very clear that the country has to be free to make its own laws and enter into new trade agreements worldwide.
“Britain’s history and culture is profoundly international, we are a European country and proud of our shared European heritage, but we are also a country that has always looked beyond Europe to the wider world,” she said. “June the 23rd was not the moment we chose to step back from the world, it was the moment we chose to build a truly global Britain.”
The Prime Minister went on to share her vision of the UK as a great trading nation, respected around the world and drawing on the strength of its historic ties to the Commonwealth of Nations. In the upcoming negotiations she said she and her team will work within the framework of the following 12 ‘guiding principles’:
12 steps towards securing a new, positive and
constructive partnership between the UK and Europe
- The UK Government must provide certainty wherever possible. Current European laws will become part of UK law and Parliament will vote on the final Brexit deal.
- The UK must control it’s own laws. This means legislation will be made in London, Edinburgh, Belfast and Cardiff and no longer subject to the European Court of Justice.
- The UK must be strengthened, maintaining the union of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales as a priority.
- The UK’s common travel area with the Republic of Ireland must be kept. The UK has shared a land border with Ireland before either were members of the EU and a practical solution must be implemented that provides border crossing while protecting UK immigration requirements.
- Britain must control its borders. The nation will always be open to international talent but an immigration system is needed that best serves the national interest. As Home Secretary, the PM realised it is impossible to curb immigration with the free movement of people.
- EU Nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU must be provided for. Such rights will be resolved as early as possible.
- Britain must become fairer. Workers’ rights need to be enhanced. As European law is translated into the UK’s domestic regulations workers’ rights will be protected and these must be built upon to keep pace with a changing labour market.
- A free trade agreement with European markets must be agreed. Mrs. May stressed she was not looking for membership of the Single Market but access to it on the greatest possible reciprocal basis. She said the UK would no longer contribute huge sums to Europe, but would make appropriate contributions where necessary.
- The UK must be able to enter into new trade agreements with other countries including the fastest-growing markets. For this reason, full customs unity is not possible. A new customs union needs to be negotiated that enables the UK to enter trade agreements with countries like China, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and the USA, where it has moved from the back of the queue to the front.
- Britain must continue to play a leading role in science and innovation, collaborating with universities across Europe.
- The UK will continue to cooperate with Europe on crime, terrorism and foreign affairs. (Britain and France are the region’s only nuclear partners and both have seats on the UN Security Council.)
- The Government must adopt at phased approach delivering a swift and orderly Brexit.
The UK is leaving the EU not Europe
The Prime Minister stressed that the UK would continue to be a good neighbour to Europe and she was confident that a new deal could be achieved. However, she warned that there were those who expected the EU to take punitive action against the UK to make it an example to other nations considering leaving the EU. She cautioned this would be “an act of calamitous self harm for the countries of Europe and not the act of a friend.”
She said that no deal for Britain would be better than a bad deal as the UK would still be able to trade with Europe, have the freedom to set up competitive tax rates to attract business, and change its economic model. However, the EU would jeopardise its investments in the UK, worth half a trillion pounds and lose the financial services of the City of London. So, it made economic sense for both sides to come to an amicable arrangement.
After a divisive Referendum Mrs. May said the UK’s 65 million people needed to come together in unity, respect British democracy and the legitimacy of the outcome. She stressed the UK needs to make a success of Brexit for future generations who will judge the nation, not on the decision to leave, but by what was made of the decision. “We need to shape a brighter a future and build a better Britain,” she said.
The Prime Minister previously announced she would trigger ‘Article 50’ by March 2017, starting the process whereby the UK formally notifies the EU of its intention to leave and kicks off two years of negotiations. This means the UK could be out of the European Union as early as 2019 if negotiations are quick and successful. Let’s hope Britain’s exit will be as orderly as Mrs. May has outlined and she will be able to deliver the ‘truly global Britain’ she envisions.