On Monday the 23rd October the Prime Minister outlined her vision for the future of our relationship with the European Union in light of the recent EU Summit. In her speech, the Prime Minister reiterated the idea that ‘no deal is better than bad deal’. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment and will refuse to allow the European Union to hold us over a barrel regarding a future deal. The Prime Minister maintains she is confident we will get a good deal for all parties involved and by December we will see significant progress in this area.
Make no mistake about it, Britain is leaving the European Union. Yet we will continue to play a full and active role inside the EU until we leaves. The referendum vote last June was about something more than simply leaving the European Union. It was a vote for change: to make Britain stronger and fairer – restoring national self-determination while becoming even more global and international in action and spirit.
The UK’s vote to leave the EU was in no way a rejection of European values. The UK’s dedication to ensuring the continued prosperity of the European people remains resolute and it is unconditionally committed to maintaining the security of the continent. We may be leaving the EU but we are not leaving Europe. We will always work with our international partners to defend democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
So in that spirit, we are not seeking partial membership of the EU, associate membership, or anything that leaves us half-in, half-out. We do not seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries or hold on to bits of membership as we leave. Instead we will seek to form a new and equal partnership – between an independent, self-governing, Global Britain and our friends and allies in the EU.
Article 50 has been invoked and the EU treaties are clear that the UK will be leaving the Union in March 2019 whether a withdrawal deal is agreed or not.
Article 50 was invoked in accordance with the UK’s constitutional arrangements as required by EU law and as defined by the UK Supreme Court. MPs from across the political spectrum voted in March 2017 to invoke Article 50 by 494 votes to 122.
Personally I believe trying to make some distinction between a so called 'hard' and 'soft' Brexit is misleading and pointless. The UK either leaves the EU and its institutions or remains a full member.
Leaving means leaving the EU, its institutions and the single market. Staying in the single market would mean keeping freedom of movement would and would, in effect, not be leaving at all. We would be in the absurd position of being in the EU, but not having any say over the EU regulations that would continue to affect. The UK would also not have any control over the number of EU citizens coming to the country.
It should also be noted that if we wished to rejoin the EU, we would be subject to the same requirements as any new candidate country, which would include adopting the euro as our currency.
I have taken the liberty of reiterating the Government’s 12 point negotiation plan that was first published back on the 2nd February, which amounts to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.
- Certainty: whenever we can, we will provide it. And I can confirm that the Government will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament.
- Control of our own laws: we will bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Because we will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws.
- Strengthen the Union: we must strengthen the precious Union between the four nations of the United Kingdom. We will work very carefully to ensure that – as powers are repatriated back to Britain – the right powers are returned to Westminster and the right powers are passed to the devolved administrations. We will make sure that no new barriers to living and doing business within our Union are created.
- Maintain 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 of Ireland, while protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom’s immigration system.
- Control of immigration: the message I got on the doorstep before and during the referendum campaign was clear: Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. However, we will continue to attract the brightest and the best to work or study in Britain but there must be control.
- Rights for EU nationals in Britain, and British nationals in the EU: we want to guarantee these rights as early as we can. We have told other EU leaders that we can offer EU nationals here this certainty, as long as this is reciprocated for British citizens in EU countries.
- Protect workers’ rights: as we translate the body of European law into our domestic regulations, we will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained.
- Free trade with European markets: as a priority we will pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and EU member states. It cannot though mean membership of the EU’s Single Market. That would mean complying with European Court of Justice rulings, free movement and other EU rules and regulations without having a vote on what those rules and regulations are. And because we will no longer be members of the Single Market, we will not be required to contribute vast sums to the EU budget. If we contribute to some specific EU programmes that we wish to participate in, it will be for us to decide and in our national interest.
- New trade agreements with other countries: it is time for Britain to become a global trading nation like we once were, striking trade agreements around the world. Through the Common Commercial Policy and the Common External Tariff, full Customs Union membership prevents us from doing this – but we do want to have a customs agreement with the EU and have an open mind on how we achieve this end.
- The best place for science and innovation: we will continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research and technology initiatives.
- Co-operation in the fight against crime and terrorism: we want our future relationship with the EU to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and intelligence. In this field, our security services are the best in the world and our European counterparts are reliant on us for providing invaluable security information.
- A smooth, orderly Brexit: we want to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two year Article 50 process has concluded. From that point onwards, we expect a phased process of implementation and we will do all we can to avoid a disruptive cliff-edge.
Most emails I receive on Brexit are related to three distinct areas: security and defence, international development and international trade. I would like to touch on each of these to help allay any concerns.
First, security and defence: The UK remains committed to operations and missions around the world as a strong and reliable ally: for example, in continuing to play our part in countering Daesh. The UK will continue to be a leading member of NATO. We are also a permanent member of the UN Security Council, a member of the Commonwealth, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Five Power Defence Arrangements in the Far
East. The UK also has strong and valued bilateral relationships in the defence and security field with countries around the world. Leaving the EU will not change any of this.
Second, international development: As an outward-looking, globally engaged nation, I believe that the UK should work to tackle international problems at their source - not wait for them to arrive on our doorstep. The UK will continue to play a leading role in international development: the Government remains committed to spending 0.7 per cent of national income on development assistance, and to achieving the UN’s Global Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. The Department for International Development is helping developing countries leave aid dependency behind and become our trading partners of the future and will continue to do this post Brexit.
Third, international trade: Withdrawing from the EU will give us the opportunity to shape our own international trade and investment opportunities, drive even greater openness with international partners and put Britain firmly at the forefront of global trade and investment. The Department for International Trade is working closely with counterparts across a wide range of markets in order to promote the UK as a great place to do business and with which to trade. The Government is taking advantage of all of the opportunities available to us to ensure that Britain becomes the global leader in free trade once we leave the EU. Please note when you hear people say we must stay in the ‘Customs Union’ they are actually saying we should not have the ability to make our own international trade deals and the EU should continue to do this for us.
Lastly, to those of who are fearful for the future I would like to remind you that that the UK is the world’s fifth largest economy with a booming capital city. We have the greatest global ‘soft power’ influence of any country and one of the world’s most accomplished armed forces. I truly believe that we can thrive outside of the EU so I am feeling rather bullish about Britain’s future and I am looking forward to breaking free from the constraints of Brussels.