Theresa May will put national unity at the heart of her latest plan for Brexit as she sets out five “tests” for the UK’s successful exit from the EU.
In a long-awaited speech in the City of London on Friday, the Prime Minister will seek to heal the wounds caused by the referendum vote with a promise to “bring our country back together”.
May, whose vision of a ‘hard Brexit’ led her to lose her Commons majority at last year’s general election, has come under fire for failing to make any attempt to reach out to Remain voters to date.
She will say that Brexit will only work if the eventual deal with Brussels is long-lasting and takes “into account the views of everyone who cares about this issue, from both sides of the debate”.
But critics claimed she had bowed to hardline “Brextremists” in the Cabinet as it was claimed that Brexit Secretary David Davis had blocked her from making “binding” commitments to continue EU rule alignment in key industrial sectors.
Addressing an audience in the Mansion House, the PM will again underline that she wants the UK to “take control of our borders, laws and money” after the country formally exits the union in March 2019.
She will also ram home her point that Northern Ireland cannot be treated differently from the rest of the UK in any new arrangements.
Yet in a marked nod to former ‘Remain’ voters, she will also suggest that the UK and EU will stay “close” together on future trade rules, despite having two “separate legal systems”.
“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,” she will say.
“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”.
May will also call for “the broadest and deepest possible agreement – covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any Free Trade Agreement anywhere in the world today”.
The PM has been criticised for failing to produce any detailed proposals so far and her overnight words suggest she is not budging from plans for a “Canada-plus-plus-plus” vision for the UK, with a free trade deal outside the single market and customs union that keeps alignment on rules for certain sectors.
The speech, which was relocated to London rather than the north following a heavy snowfall, echoes Gordon Brown’s famous “five tests” for any UK membership of the euro back in the 2000s.
Critics seized on her planned words as yet another example of the Tory government’s “cake and eat it” approach to Brexit, hoping to keep the benefits of membership of EU membership while getting new freedoms over migration and trade.
Unlike her speech in Lancaster House, which pointed to life outside the EU single market, and her speech in Florence, which conceded the need for a two-year ‘status quo’ transition, it was unclear if the Mansion House speech would give the EU any further clarity on the UK’s position.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna swiftly dubbed her vision “fantasy land”, saying a string of Cabinet speeches had meant to make the road to Brexit clearer “but all it has done is show up huge, gaping potholes”.
“This was the last chance for the Prime Minister to finally face down the Brextremists on the right of her party and do what is in the best interests of the country, but yet again she has failed to do so.”
And Best for Britain campaign member Lord Adonis added: “The significant words will come not from the puppet Prime Minister but from her controllers Farage and Rees-Mogg.”
The Cabinet signed off the speech on Thursday, with Downing Street claiming ministers had “a detailed and positive discussion” and praised her planned address as “a real step forward in the negotiations”.
In her speech, May will say her ‘five tests’ for the coming negotiations on a withdrawal agreement and future trade will be:
“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
bringing our country together, strengthening the precious union of all our people.”
The Prime Minister will return to the words she delivered on the steps of 10 Downing Street in July 2016, when she pledged 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 will say that her promise is “what guides me in our negotiations with the EU”.
“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.
“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.”