On Tuesday last week, in the splendour of the Long Gallery at Lancaster House, and in the presence of the entire London diplomatic corps, Theresa May gave one of the most important speeches made by any British Prime Minister over the last half century.
It was a lengthy speech, full of detail, delivered coolly and clearly. In it, the Prime Minister reiterated the desire of the United Kingdom, as expressed in the referendum, to leave the European Union and seek a new, global role; and made plain her own determination to ensure that that happened.
The speech was particularly noteworthy for the clarity of its message. For some time, politicians in Britain and the EU had been clamouring for the Government to reveal its approach to the withdrawal negotiations: where, they asked was the plan?
Well, here was the plan, delivered as plainly as could be. Britain would leave the EU. It would regain control of its borders, which meant that membership of the Single Market would not be sought. Britain would no longer be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It would, however, seek to agree the freest of free trade agreements with the EU, just as it would with other economies across the world.
Most importantly, the Prime Minister made clear that Britain, though leaving the European Union, was not turning its back on Europe. The decision to leave represented no desire to become more distant from the nations of Europe; rather, it was a vote to restore parliamentary democracy, national self-determination, and to become even more global and internationalist in action and in spirit.
The speech was a remarkable one, and I would urge everyone to read it. It set out, very clearly, the course that the Government will take over the next few years. The negotiations for our withdrawal from the EU will be challenging and, no doubt, difficulties will arise. However, the British people have given instructions to the Government to deliver that withdrawal; and Theresa May, in her speech, has made absolutely clear her determination to do precisely that.
The Prime Minister’s speech may be read online at: http://bit.ly/2k0EmOB