Monday 22 January 2018

Eight key things we learned from Theresa May's Brexit speech

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on leaving the European Union at Lancaster House in London, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech on leaving the European Union at Lancaster House in London, January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Kirsty Wigglesworth/Pool

Donal O'Donovan & Louise Kelly

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has made her most comprehensive statement to date on the relationship she thinks Britain should have with the rest of the EU after Brexit.

Here are eight key points that we've learned from her speech.

1) UK will leave the European single market

May insists that the Brexit agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU's member states.

The deal should give British companies the freedom to trade with and operate within European markets, and let European businesses do the same in Britain.

"But I want to be clear: What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the single market," she said.

2) Ireland is special

Theresa May said specifically that maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland is an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead.

Its important to the Government here too, which means any threat to the Common Travel Area would have to come from elsewhere in Europe.

May said the UK government will "make it a priority to deliver a practical solution” to the question of the shared land with the Irish State.

“Nobody wants to return to the borders of the past,” she said.

3) Brexit means Brexit - and May wants a 'truly global Britain'

May is not seeking partial or associate membership - the UK is not looking to be half in and half out of the EU.

It plans to exit the European Single Market and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

May seeks "a new and equal partnership between an independent, self-governing, global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU".

"We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. We do not seek to hold on to bits of membership as we leave," she said.

The UK wants to negotiate a free trade deal with the rest of the EU, but be free to do similar deals with others. Theresa May made a big point of saying Britain remains open to the world – “a global Britain”.

She said she wants the UK to emerge from this period of change "a stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking country than ever before."

"I want us to be a truly global Britain, the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike," she said.

4) There will be investment in economic infrastructure

May said that the UK government has a plan for Britain; to pay the deficit down and to take a balanced approach by investing in the economic infrastructure.

"It can transform the growth potential of our economy and improve the quality of people's lives across the whole country," she said.

5) EU nationals will still be welcome

Brexit will mean control of immigration to the UK, so full free access to EU workers will end.

But Theresa May says the UK will be open to the “best and brightest.”

"You will still be welcome in this country as we hope our citizens will be in yours," she said.

6) Brexit does not mean the UK is 'turning inward'

May said that the UK is European and proud - that the decision to leave the European Union does not mean that they are turning inward.

"But we are always a country that has looked beyond Europe to the wider world. That is why we are one of the most racially diverse countries in Europe," she said.

7) UK does not want EU to unravel

May acknowledged that many fear the beginning of a "great unravelling" of the EU.

She has insisted that she does not want that to happen.

"It would not be in the best interest of Britain, it remains overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain's best national interest for the EU to succeed," she said. 

8) Transitional phase after Brexit deal desired

Theresa May said she wants a period after a Brexit deal has been negotiated when the new regime will be gradually phased in – rather than “a cliff edge”.

When the deal is done in March 2019, May wants to allow time to disentangle UK from EU.

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