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May’s Brexit Speech – Giving the Game Away?

Published: Jan 18 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

"That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain."

Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position.

"So today I want to outline our objectives for the negotiation ahead. 12 objectives that amount to one big goal: a new, positive and constructive partnership between Britain and the European Union.

The first objective is crucial. We will provide certainty wherever we can.

Our second guiding principle is to build a stronger Britain. That means taking control of our own affairs, as those who voted in their millions to leave the European Union demanded we must. So we will take back control of our laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain.

At this momentous time, it is more important than ever that we face the future together, united by what makes us strong: the bonds that unite us as a people, and our shared interest in the UK being an open, successful trading nation in the future. And I hope that same spirit of unity will apply in Northern Ireland in particular over the coming months in the assembly elections, and the main parties there will work together to re-establish a partnership government as soon as possible.

As we (repatriate powers from Brussels back to Britain), our guiding principle must be to ensure that — as we leave the European Union — no new barriers to living and doing business within our own Union are created. That means maintaining the necessary common standards and frameworks for our own domestic market, empowering the UK as an open, trading nation to strike the best trade deals around the world, and protecting the common resources of our islands.

We cannot forget that, as we leave, the United Kingdom will share a land border with the EU, and maintaining that common travel area with the Republic of Ireland will be an important priority for the UK in the talks ahead.

Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe. And that is what we will deliver.

…..under my leadership, not only will the Government protect the rights of workers’ set out in European legislation, we will build on them. Because under this Conservative Government, we will make sure legal protection for workers keeps pace with the changing labour market......

So 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 the EU’s member states.

And because we will no longer be members of the single market, we will not be required to contribute huge sums to the EU budget.

I know my emphasis on striking trade agreements with countries outside Europe has led to questions about whether Britain seeks to remain a member of the EU’s customs union. ……..But I do want us to have a customs agreement with the EU.

With the threats to our common security becoming more serious, our response cannot be to co-operate with one another less, but to work together more. I therefore want our future relationship with the European Union to include practical arrangements on matters of law enforcement and the sharing of intelligence material with our EU allies

I do not mean that we will seek some form of unlimited transitional status…… Instead, I want us 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 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.

So however frustrating some people find it, the government will not be pressured into saying more than I believe it is in our national interest to say."

Readers – your comments on these and other signals in the Prime Minister’s speech might help her in the future.

Stephen White


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About the author:

Stephen White
My background is sales and marketing. I read Law at University and worked for 2 major packaging companies for 13 years in sales and sales management. I joined John McMillan and Scotwork in 1984. For the next 25 years together with our colleagues we delivered training and consulting, built the global business and developed the Scotwork product portfolio.

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