The British Prime Minister has Declared a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU

Politics | March 3, 2018, Saturday // 09:29|  views

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered her long-awaited speech on the future ties of the UK with Brussels. May said it was time to accept "harsh facts" about the economic consequences of leaving the community, reports the

And she will insist that she will only sign a deal that benefits the whole of Britain and can "bring our country back together".

Speaking at the Mansion House in London, the Prime Minister is expected to say: "The agreement we reach with the EU must respect the result of the referendum.

"It was a vote to take control of our borders, laws and money.

"And a vote for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again."

Her five tests for any final agreement with Brussels are: ensuring the result of the EU referendum is respected; wining a lasting deal; protecting jobs and security; building a a modern, open, outward-looking country and strengthening the UK.

Mrs May's speech was still being finalised tonight after months of squabbling between Brexit enthusiasts and pro-Brussels factions in her Cabinet.

Ministers spent more than two hours discussing the text yesterday, clashing over a proposal for a ‘binding commitment’ to align with EU rules and regulations in certain sectors of the economy.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, EU Exit Secretary David Davis and Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom were understood to be among ministers resisting the move.

A Cabinet source said: "There has been a fair amount of disagreement."

Tory MPs were being briefed on the contents of the speech in a series of conference calls last night.

Mrs May's speech will insist that, throughout the Brexit negotiations, she will be guided by her promise made on the doorstep of Downing Street when she first took her job in July 2016 to "forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world and make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us."

She is expected to say: "That pledge, to the people of our United Kingdom is what guides me in our negotiations with the EU."

Entitled "Our Future Partnership", the speech will spell out the Prime Minister's vision of a UK that is a "champion of free trade based on high standards".

She will call for "a bold and comprehensive economic partnership with our neighbours in the EU, and reaching out beyond to foster trade agreements with nations across the globe."

Mrs May is expected to say: "We must bring our country back together, taking into account the views of everyone who cares about this issue, from both sides of the debate.

"As Prime Minister it is my duty to represent all of our United Kingdom, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland; north and south, from coastal towns and rural villages to our great cities."

Listing her tests, she will say they comprise of "implementing the decision of the British people; reaching an enduring solution; protecting our security and prosperity; delivering an outcome that is consistent with the kind of country we want to be; and bringing our country together, strengthening the precious union of all our people."

Elaborating on the tests, the Prime Minister will add: "First, the agreement we reach with the EU must respect the result of the referendum.

"It was a vote to take control of our borders, laws and money and a vote for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again.

"But it was not a vote for a distant relationship with our neighbours.

"Second, the new agreement we reach with the EU must endure.

"After Brexit both the UK and the EU want to forge ahead with building a better future for our people, not find ourselves back at the negotiating table because things have broken down.

"Third, it must protect people’s jobs and security. People in the UK voted for our country to have a new and different relationship with Europe, but while the means may change our shared goals surely have not – to work together to grow our economies and keep our people safe.

"Fourth, it must be consistent with the kind of country we want to be as we leave: a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy; a nation of pioneers, innovators, explorers and creators; a country that celebrates our history and diversity, confident of our place in the world; that meets its obligations to our near neighbours and far off friends, and is proud to stand up for its values.

"And fifth, in doing all of these things, it must strengthen our union of nations and our union of people."

And in conclusion, the Prime Minister will say: "So let me turn to the future economic partnership I want to see.

"As on security, what I am seeking is a relationship that goes beyond the transactional to one where we support each other’s interests.

"So I want the broadest and deepest possible agreement – covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any Free Trade Agreement anywhere in the world today

"I believe that is achievable because it is in the EU’s interests as well as ours and because of our unique starting point, where on day one we both have the same laws and rules.

"So rather than having to bring two different systems closer together, the task will be to manage the relationship once we are two separate legal systems."

Ministers grappled over details of the speech for more than two hours yesterday at the special Cabinet meeting in Downing Street yesterday.

Mrs May was said to have agreed to a series of changes to the text requested by ministers.

Officials said there was a "genuine discussion" at the meeting, Whitehall code for a series of disagreements.

One Cabinet source said ministers had wrangled over details of the speech but avoided a full-blown row.

"Most of the points raised were about nuances of language," the source said.

Liz Truss, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, tweeted after the session: "Very positive Cabinet meeting on Brexit.....but I had a sneaking suspicion it might last longer than an hour!"

Minsters were handed printed copies of the speech on arrival at Number 10 and given 30 minutes to study them before the meeting. They were asked to hand the copies back before leaving.

Mrs May told the special Cabinet meeting that her aim was to "secure an ambitious economic partnership with the EU, which is in the interests of both the UK and European Union".

Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator last night claimed he was looking forward to hearing the speech.

"I hope it will help us move the negotiation forward by setting out her vision of the future relationship," he said.

Mr Barnier added: "Any vision of the future must take into account the fact that the EU cannot and will not compromise on its founding principles."

Mr Barnier urged British politicians to face up to hard choices raised by the decision to leave the EU.

Speaking to a business conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: "I recognise the political temptation to avoid making a choice or to downplay the cost of Brexit, or indeed to pretend that the UK could obtain a free trade deal with the EU with all the benefits of the single market without the obligations.

"Abandoning such ideas will enable us to begin building an ambitious future partnership based on the foundation of realism and in the interests of our citizens and our businesses, and this is my objective."

The EU diplomat said that in order to start work on the post-Brexit EU-UK partnership, Brussels needs to know what Britain's vision of the future is, not only on trade but also security, defence, foreign policy, justice and home affairs and individual sectors like aviation.

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Tags: theresa may, speech, Brexit


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