It was the highly anticipated and most talked about speech of this year – following Ms Streep’s Golden Globes controversy, of course. On Tuesday last week, Prime Minister Theresa May set out Britain’s plans for for leaving the European Union.
Remaining firm on her “Brexit means Brexit” promise, May said she wants Britain to be a “truly global” and “self-governing” nation that is fully independent from EU control.
She announced: “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.”
Although we are leaving, May made clear that she wants the UK to maintain strong ties with the Union:
“We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe,” she asserted.
At the heart of May’s speech was her 12-point plan for Brexit, which outlined her aims and objectives for Britain’s future. Its purpose is also to provide clarity on issues that have been baffling many of us since last year’s referendum.
Here are some of the main points she made:
Certainty and clarity
“The first objective is crucial. We will provide certainty wherever we can”
Since we voted Leave last year, many of us have been scratching our heads as to what it all means. What does it mean for EU citizens living in the UK? Is it going to affect food prices? These are among the burning questions we’ve been dying to know.
The government has been widely criticised for not providing the public with clear plans on what it intends to do when we leave the Union. But May has assured that this will change:
“I recognise how important it is to provide business, the public sector, and everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process.”
She added: “So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.”
Leaving the single market
A major priority for the government is how we will do business with other countries once we leave the Union. As a member state, all of our imports and exports are bound to EU laws. This includes something called the single market; an act that allows us to buy and sell goods with other EU nations without facing the same tariffs or restrictions as non-EU nations.
May said that once Britain leaves the EU, it will no longer be a member of the single market. Instead, the PM wants to set up a whole new trading deal with the EU; one that will enable “the freest possible trade of goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states”. If a free trade model is established, it is likely that things like grocery prices aren’t going to be hit by price rises, as initially feared in the Brexit aftermath (phew!).
Our exit from the single market will also give Britain greater freedom to pursue trading deals with other non-EU nations – which May said will bring significant benefits to the UK’s economy.
She stated “it is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing export markets in the world.”
May confirmed that a number of countries including China, Brazil and the Gulf States have already expressed interest in striking trade deals with us – while discussions for future trade deals with Australia, New Zealand and India are already underway.
Control of immigration
Immigration has been a huge subject of debate before and after the referendum. The government believes that one of the main reasons Britons voted to leave the EU is so that we could control who lives and works in the UK.
As a member of the single market, people from anywhere in the EU have the right to live and work here. Likewise, UK citizens have the right to live and work in other EU countries.
May said that once Britain leaves, it will “get control of the number of people coming to the EU”.
While the government is yet to confirm its position on this issue, May said she is keen to “guarantee the rights of EU migrants currently living and working in the UK”.
Before this happens, the PM must reach a deal with other EU leaders – a task she is keen to deal with “as soon as possible”.
Control of our laws
From fishing laws to grocery prices – and even the shape of our bananas – many areas of our everyday lives are influenced by and derived from EU laws. In order for Britain to become a fully independent and sovereign nation, May said that it needs complete control over decisions on its own laws and policies.
She stated: “We will not have truly left the European Union if we are not in control of our own laws”.
Plenary hall of European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 16, 2013 © Ikars / Shutterstock.com
One of the PM’s biggest priorities is to ensure that all law-making powers are transferred from Brussels to the individual governments in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, so that they can make their own decisions based on the interests of their own nations. This is going to impact a wide range of issues including: trade, immigration, employment and farming; all of which are heavily governed by EU laws.
A stronger Britain
In her mission for an independent Britain, May wants to make the relationship between its four nations – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – even stronger.
She stated: “It is only by coming together as one great union of nations and people that we can make the most of the opportunities ahead”
She admitted that while the four nations do not always agree on everything concerning Brexit, it is important for us to work together.
With regard to Brexit negotiations, her main priority is to is “to deliver a Brexit that works for the whole of the United Kingdom”.
A new partnership between Britain and Europe
As well as bringing greater unity to the four nations, the PM is keen for us to maintain a close relationship with the Union, particularly in our trading relationship.
She said: ”The decision to leave the EU represents no desire to become more distant to you, our friends and neighbours,” she added.
“We will continue to be reliable partners, willing allies and close friends,” May added.
Crucially, the government believes that the UK and the EU should focus not on what separates us, but what makes us stronger. This includes continuing to work together to tackle important issues like terrorism and crime.
May announced: “We will continue…to work with one another to make sure we are all safer, more secure and more prosperous through continued friendship”.
The PM has a busy few years ahead of her. The next big task is for her and other world leaders to have discussions about the UK’s future relationship with the EU. This process is likely to take up to two years. In the meantime, May said that she will keep the public informed of new developments as they happen. Once the UK and the EU have agreed on their future relationship, the PM said any crucial decisions made will be voted on by Parliament.
Photos: Theresa May © Frederic Legrand – COMEO/Shutterstock, Inc. European Parliament © Ikars/ Shutterstock.com