On Tuesday, the Prime Minister gave a speech at Lancaster House in which she set out her plans for Brexit. She declared that she wanted “this United Kingdom” (which she subsequently kept calling “Britain”)
“to emerge from this period of change stronger, fairer, more united and more outward-looking than ever before. I want us to be a secure, prosperous, tolerant country – a magnet for international talent and a home to the pioneers and innovators who will shape the world ahead. 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.”
On future relations with the rest of Europe, she said this:
“Our vote to leave the European Union was no rejection of the values we share. The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours. It was no attempt to do harm to the EU itself or to any of its remaining member states. We do not want to turn the clock back to the days when Europe was less peaceful, less secure and less able to trade freely. It was a vote to restore, as we see it, our parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.
We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends. We want to buy your goods and services, sell you ours, trade with you as freely as possible, and work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship.
You will still be welcome in this country as we hope our citizens will be welcome in yours. At a time when together we face a serious threat from our enemies, Britain’s unique intelligence capabilities will continue to help to keep people in Europe safe from terrorism. And at a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”
She stressed, however, that the UK was not seeking partial membership of the EU, associate membership of the EU,
“or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. 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. No, the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union.”
She set out her objectives as follows:
- Certainty: “as we repeal the European Communities Act, we will convert the “acquis” – the body of existing EU law – into British law. This will give the country maximum certainty as we leave the EU. The same rules and laws will apply on the day after Brexit as they did before. And it will be for the British Parliament to decide on any changes to that law after full scrutiny and proper Parliamentary debate”. She confirmed that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.
- Control of our own laws: The UK will take back control of its own laws and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast.
- Strengthening the Union: Though foreign affairs are the responsibility of the UK Government, the devolved administrations should be fully engaged in the process – hence the Joint Ministerial Committee on EU Negotiations, so that ministers from each of the UK’s devolved administrations can contribute to the process of planning for Brexit: “Part of that will mean working very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated from Brussels back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster, and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
- Maintaining the Common Travel Area with Ireland: “we will work to deliver a practical solution that allows the maintenance of the Common Travel Area with the Republic, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.”
- Control of immigration: “We will always want immigration, especially high-skilled immigration, we will always want immigration from Europe, and we will always welcome individual migrants as friends. But the message from the public before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.”
- Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU: “We want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can. I have told other EU leaders that we could give people the certainty they want straight away, and reach such a deal now. Many of them favour such an agreement – one or two others do not – but I want everyone to know that it remains an important priority for Britain – and for many other member states – to resolve this challenge as soon as possible.
- Protecting workers’ rights: The Government will protect and build on the rights of workers set out in European legislation.
- Free trade with European markets: The Government will pursue a “bold and ambitious” Free Trade Agreement with the European Union: “But I want to be clear. What I am proposing cannot mean membership of the Single Market … an important part of the new strategic partnership we seek with the EU will be the pursuit of the greatest possible access to the Single Market, on a fully reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement”.
- New trade agreements with other countries: Because the Government wants to be free to strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union, it wishes to be able to negotiate its own trade agreements. “But I also want tariff-free trade with Europe and cross-border trade there to be as frictionless as possible. That means I do not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy and I do not want us to be bound by the Common External Tariff. These are the elements of the Customs Union that prevent us from striking our own comprehensive trade agreements with other countries. But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU. Whether that means we must reach a completely new customs agreement, become an associate member of the Customs Union in some way, or remain a signatory to some elements of it, I hold no preconceived position. I have an open mind on how we do it. It is not the means that matter, but the ends.”
- To be the best place for science and innovation: The Government would welcome an agreement to continue to collaborate with European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives.
- Cooperation in the fight against crime and terrorism: The Government will continue to cooperate with its European partners in areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs.
- A smooth, orderly Brexit: “it is in no one’s interests for there to be a cliff-edge for business or a threat to stability, as we change from our existing relationship to a new partnership with the EU”. However, the Government does not want “some form of unlimited transitional status”, which would not be good either for the UK or for the EU: “Instead, I want us to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the 2-year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements”.
How achievable all this is, we shall see.