Union will become stronger after Brexit, says May

Prime minister visits all four parts of the UK in one day in bid to strengthen unity

 Britain’s prime minister Theresa May in the House of Commons. Photograph:  AFP Photo

Britain’s prime minister Theresa May in the House of Commons. Photograph: AFP Photo

 

 Theresa May has said she is determined that the union will become stronger after Brexit, despite uncertainty about the future of the border and her dispute with the first ministers of Scotland and Wales over the devolution of powers returned from Brussels.

With exactly one year to go before Britain leaves the European Union, the prime minister will on Thursday visit all four parts of the United Kingdom in a single day, having lunch with farmers near Belfast.

We see the enormous benefits of our union at home too, as we face challenges together, freely pooling and sharing risks and rewards as one united people

“The UK contains four proud and historic nations, but together we amount to so much more than the sum of our parts and our union is an enormous force for good. We see that on the global stage, where the UK stands up for liberal and democratic values and leads the world in international development action. And we see the enormous benefits of our union at home too, as we face challenges together, freely pooling and sharing risks and rewards as one united people,” she said.

Ms May will visit textile workers at a factory in Ayrshire, before travelling to Newcastle to meet a local parent and toddler group. After her lunchtime visit to Northern Ireland, she will travel to Barry to host a roundtable with Welsh businesses, finishing the day in west London where she will have tea with Polish citizens who have decided to remain in Britain. 

Devolution settlements

She said she remains committed to the devolution settlements, despite her resistance to Scottish and Welsh demands that powers over devolved policy areas returned from Brussels must go to Edinburgh and Cardiff before any decision is made to return some decision-making to London. Ms May wants such powers to return initially to Westminster, where a decision will be made about which should be devolved to Edinburgh and Cardiff.

The shady business of data mining and undermining electoral laws goes right to the heart of the prime minister’s party

“As the prime minister of the United Kingdom, I have an absolute responsibility to protect the integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole. That means ensuring that no new barriers are created within our common domestic market and that the UK is able to meet its international obligations in the future. No prime minister could leave these things to chance, because they are absolutely crucial to our success as a country in the future,” she said. 

Electoral spending

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, the prime minister refused to be drawn on allegations by Cambridge Analytica whistleblower Chris Wylie that the Vote Leave campaign broke electoral spending rules during the 2016 referendum. Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader at Westminster, called for the allegations to be investigated.

“We know that before the EU referendum the Democratic Unionist party received £425,000 [€486,000] from the Conservative-run Constitutional Research Council, chaired by Richard Cook, the former vice-chair of the Scottish Tories. We know that some of that money was given to Aggregate IQ, a reported franchise of Cambridge Analytica. We know that Chris Wylie is ‘absolutely convinced’ of a common purpose between Vote Leave, BeLeave, Veterans for Britain and the DUP. The shady business of data mining and undermining electoral laws goes right to the heart of the prime minister’s party,” he said.

  Ms May said it was for the electoral commission to ensure that the rules are respected and to investigate alleged breaches.