Key points from the UK Prime Minister’s speech
The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, called for unity once again during Prime Minister’s Question Time as she prepared to address the nation on Article 50 and the country’s way forward as Brexit begins. “As we face this historic moment…now is the time for us all to pull together…”
During Prime Minister’s Question Time, Mrs May was asked what the UK government is doing to ensure national and local government prioritises buying of British goods and services – her answer was that they were already encouraging this. When asked what can be done for Local Authorities, she seemed unwilling to be drawn on the subject, replying that local authorities needed to vote Conservative if they wanted the right support.
The importance of strong government in Northern Ireland was also stressed in the questions and answers – “so Northern Ireland can once again be restored to devolved government.”
Great turning points in our national story
Mrs May opened her historic speech by emphasising that the vote to leave the EU had been democratic, saying that “Today, the government acts on democratic will of the British people.”
She confirmed that the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU had handed letter to the President of the European Council (EC) to invoke Article 50. And that “the process is now underway,” she said, “in accordance with the British people.” Mrs May described the actions of today as “an historic moment, from which there can be no turning back.”
She highlighted the ambition and opportunity of the situation, describing leaving the EU and what comes with it as a “great turning points in our national story.”
Mrs May began her speech with a focus on governance, reiterating points from her speech earlier in the year about the UK making its “own decisions and own laws, taking control of what matters most.”
An outward-looking nation
Once again, the Prime Minister repeated the ongoing aims of Brexit, to create a “stronger, fairer Britain”. She accentuated the need to focus and look ahead: “We can choose to say the task ahead is too great, or look forward with optimism and hope. I choose to believe in Britain and that our best days are ahead. [We will] use this moment to build a better Britain. [We have] a unique opportunity in leaving the EU, to shape a brighter future for our country.”
Reiterating the key messages of her Brexit speech in January, the UK Prime Minister stated, “We want the UK to emerge stronger, fairer, more untied and more outward looking than ever before. We want a tolerant and prosperous country.
Old friends and new allies
Mrs. May confirmed that the government desires the UK to be a global and united country: “We want us to be a truly global Britain – a best friend and neighbour to our European partners. But a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too; out into the world, to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike.”
Mrs May also reminded the House of Commons that the UK enjoys a number of existing agreements with other countries that are not in the EU – she envisages a similar relationship between the UK and EU.
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A strong friendship with the EU
The UK Prime Minister made a point of complimenting the European approach in some carefully worded statements: “Perhaps now, more than ever, the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe; values that the UK shares.” She stated that it is important to the UK, too, that the EU remains strong and prosperous, saying that the UK “will play its part in promoting and supporting values of EU.”
She also emphasised the continued cooperation, collaboration and strong relationship that the UK desires to have with the EU and the importance of the EU’s continued success; saying, “We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe; we will remain a close ally and committed partner – helping [the EU] to project its values and defend itself. We will do all we can to help EU prosper and succeed”. Mrs May said It is clear that a deep and special partnership is in the interests of both the UK and EU – a “spirit of sincere cooperation”. “We want to continue to buy goods and services from EU members and sell them ours”, describing the ongoing relationship as a “continued friendship”.
The Prime Minister said they would set out an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU – to give British companies maximum flexibility to trade with EU members. “We will no longer be members of the single market – we will strike trade agreements with EU countries and those outside the EU too. She added, however, that the UK will continue to “collaborate with our European partners” in a range of sectors, including science and innovation; crime, terrorism, and homeland security.
She stated that there would be a clear and ambitious plan for a new, deep and special partnership between Britain and EU – a partnership of values, of interests, and based on cooperation in areas such as security and economic affairs. She note that this “works in the best interests of UK, EU and wider world.”
Mrs. May also warned that it is interests of both UK and EU that there be as little disruption as possible. She highlighted the need for the “closest possible security cooperation – we face the same threats of global terrorism. This will be a special partnership that works for us all.”
Reassurances for the UK and UK Business
The government whitepaper due to be delivered tomorrow should provide guidance, clarity and reassurance for the UK, British business and industry. Mrs May said, “I am ambitious for Britain – we will deliver certainty wherever possible, so business, public sector and everybody else has as much clarity as possible. That is why we will publish a whitepaper to be published tomorrow so everyone will know where they stand.”
Repeating her previous speech about Brexit, Mrs. May reiterated the importance of the UK being a “magnet for international talent” and continuing to attract “the brightest and best.”
UK will continue to “collaborate with our European partners” in a range of sectors
Increased powers for devolved parliaments
“Leaving the EU will mean laws will be made in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast. We will negotiate as one United Kingdom. We will be clear about where responsibilities lie.” The Prime Minister of the UK was quick to note that no existing powers will be taken from devolved parliaments, and in fact, said that their decision making ability will increase.
Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, said that the next steps are most crucial. He added that the Prime Minister must listen and represent whole country, not just her own party, something that Mrs May was keen to get across in her speech. The UK Prime Minister acknowledged in her speech that the referendum in June was divisive at times, but in the negotiations ahead, insisted that she will represent everyone in the UK and those EU nationals who have made the UK their home. She stated that it is “time to come together. This great national moment needs a great national effort. We must work together with optimism and hope and make the most of the opportunities ahead.”
The Prime Minister confirmed the timings set out previously, in accordance with Article 50: “we will seek the terms of this partnership within next two years.”
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