Theresa May’s speech was well received on both sides of Brexit negotiations
She set out a detailed blueprint for a close economic partnership which still ensures Britain regains full control of our borders and law-making.
The Prime Minister signalled her readiness to compromise in the negotiations, admitting: “No one will get everything they want.”
But she also warned Brussels to accept “hard truths” and end the stalling and posturing over a deal. Her speech was given a cautious welcome by EU leaders last night.
Chief negotiator Michel Barnier said her proposals offered “clarity” about Britain’s plans to quit the single market and customs union.
Her address also appeared to have reassured Brexit-backing Tory MPs of her determination to ensure a clean break with Brussels.
Theresa May has warned that not everybody will get what they want
A clear statement of how we can leave the EU and maintain friendly relations with our neighbours
Mrs May’s 45-minute speech in the City of London’s historic Mansion House – her third keynote Brexit address in 18 months – set out full details of how a “tailored” new trading partnership between Britain and the EU could work.
“My message to our friends in Europe is clear – we know what we want, we understand your principles, we have a shared interest in getting this right, so let’s get on with it,” she said.
“This is an optimistic and confident future which can unite us all,” she added, admitting there would continue to be “ups and downs in the months ahead” as negotiations progressed.
“No one will get everything they want,” she told the audience of European ambassadors and senior City figures, including Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
“We will not be buffeted by the demands to talk tough or threaten a walkout, just as we will not accept the counsels of despair that this simply cannot be done. We will move forward by calm, patient discussion.”
Mrs May warned that everyone involved in the Brexit debate had to accept some “hard truths”.
She said: “I want to be straight with people – because the reality is that we all need to face up to some hard facts. We are leaving the single market.
Life is going to be different. “In certain ways, our access to each other’s markets will be less than it is now. We should not think of our leaving the EU as marking an ending, as much as a new beginning for the UK and our relationship with our European allies.
“Change is not to be feared, so long as we face it with a clear-sighted determination to act for the common good.”
Senior Cabinet ministers, including Chancellor Philip Hammond and EU Exit Secretary David Davis, were among the audience as the Prime Minister set out her Brexit vision.
Major Brexit figureheads were in attendance for Mrs May’s speech
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was unable to attend after the snowy weather delayed his return from a visit to Hungary. Mrs May hit back at the EU for offering Britain a stark choice between “off-the-shelf” trade deals.
She rejected the idea that we should have to choose between a Norway-style deal binding us into the single market or a looser trade relationship like Canada’s. “We need to strike a new balance,” she said.
“I want the broadest and deepest possible partnership – covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.
“I believe this is achievable because it is in the EU’s interests as well as ours.”
Britain and the EU could build a “tailored approach” to suit both sides, she said.
“We both need to face the fact that this is a negotiation and neither of us can have exactly what we want. I think it is pragmatic common sense that we should work together to deliver the best outcome for both sides.”
Mrs May accepted that Britain could be guided by some European Court of Justice rulings after Brexit but insisted that EU judges will not be allowed to lay down the law, saying “the jurisdiction of the ECJ in the UK must end”.
She said a trade deal would have to include “reciprocal binding commitments to ensure fair and open competition” but tariffs or quotas on imports and exports could be avoided.
“The UK will need to make a strong commitment that its regulatory standards will remain as high as the EU’s.
Theresa May accepted that the ECJ could ‘guide’ the UK post-Brexit
“That commitment, in practice, will mean that UK and EU regulatory standards will remain substantially similar in the future,” she said.
But she promised that Britain would get back control of its own borders and end free movement for EU citizens after we leave the EU.
Brexit campaigners welcomed Mrs May’s speech last night. Richard Tice and John Longworth, co-chairmen of Leave Means Leave, called her proposals “sensible”.
And Tory Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg said: “The Prime Minister’s speech is welcome – a clear statement of how we can leave the EU and maintain friendly relations with our neighbours.”