May to call for ‘broadest and deepest’ trade deal in key Brexit speech

PM to use ‘five tests’ speech to call for deal between UK and EU that strengthens ‘our union’

In a speech in London, British Prime Minister Theresa May laid out her plans for the next stage of Brexit.

 

British prime minister Theresa May will say she wants the “broadest and deepest” trade agreement with the EU when she delivers a much-anticipated speech on Brexit on Friday.

The Conservative leader, in her third major address on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, will outline “five tests” that will guide her government through negotiations with Brussels.

In extracts of her speech, seen by The Irish Times, Ms May will say that the UK is looking 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.”

She will tell an audience at Mansion House in the City of London that one of the tests for the deal the UK wants from the EU is that it “must strengthen our union of nations and our union of people.”

‘Unacceptable border’

The speech comes two days after Ms May rejected the EU’s plan to keep Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs area as a means of avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland, saying this would create an unacceptable border in the Irish Sea.

Acknowledging the divisions over Brexit, Ms May will use her speech to call for unity. “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.”

She will talk about “reaching an enduring solution” and agreeing a deal that will be “bringing our country together, strengthening the precious union of all our people.”

Ms May is expected to propose a controlled break from EU rules after Brexit through “ambitious managed divergence” where the UK and EU can handle differences in regulations in a multi-pronged approach through negotiation.

“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.”

Ms May will set out a plan for Britain to be “a champion of free trade based on high standards” and focused on “thriving in the world by building a bold and comprehensive economic partnership with our neighbours in the EU, and reaching out beyond to foster trade agreements with nations across the globe.”

‘Respect’

Ruling out any potential row-back on the UK’s position, she will say that the agreement the UK reaches with the EU “must respect” the vote of the 2016 referendum “to take control of our borders, laws and money.”

She will remark, however, that the result was “not a vote for a distant relationship with our neighbours.”

Ms May’s speech - entitled “Our Future Partnership” - will talk about a “shared interest” between the UK and the EU in getting Brexit right.

In a reference to the difficult negotiations so far between the sides, she will say “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.”

Offering an another olive branch to the EU’s negotiators in Brussels, she will say that while the British people “voted for our country to have a new and different relationship with Europe, ” the EU and UK will retain common objectives.

“While the means may change, our shared goals surely have not: to work together to grow our economies and keep our people safe,” she will say.