The Prime Minister delivered a thoughtful and affirmative speech on Friday, not just fine words and platitudes but setting out the “trade-offs” and landscape of the Brexit negotiations. Most importantly, she reiterated what Brexit means and redefined for the negotiators what success looks like.
At the beginning of her premiership, Theresa May was badly advised in defining Brexit success as the achievement of a trading arrangement with EU. This immediately gave the EU massive negotiating leverage since it placed success (and failure) in the gift of the European Commission and its puppet masters – Germany and the junior partner, France. But in now setting out her expectations the Prime Minister has, in the Mansion House speech, made it clear that success means delivering control of our borders, money and laws.
She has also addressed the latest aggressive wheeze of the continentals, by making it clear that under no circumstances will we countenance a land grab or an attempt to break up the United Kingdom, while at the same time making it equally clear that we are leaving the single market and the customs union, without which our number one objective cannot be fulfilled. This is bold resolve, which will need to be maintained in the face of opposition from front and behind and that will be required of the Prime Minister on other matters over the next months and years.
The Prime Minister also recognised that once we are free to make our own decisions we may, for pragmatic reasons, choose to engage with organisations and rules within the EU as it suits us. But these decisions must be made from the intellectual starting point that we have completely left and that we are not rule takers. We participate in and contribute to all sorts of international bodies and agreements as a sovereign nation and always have, and our relationship with the EU should be no different. On standards, we should always be pushing for these to be on a global stage rather than protectionist measures for the benefit of a regional power bloc operating a closed market.
Additionally, of course, the Prime Minister nods at the desire that the UK should be economically better off outside the EU than we would otherwise have been by staying in the EU. She made it clear that a special deal will help make this a reality and would benefit the EU; however, the Government must not be blinded by this. Although a trade arrangement makes it a little easier to achieve our economic objectives, the prosperity of our country depends far more on the economic freedoms that Brexit affords us, the economic policies we adopt to make use of these and, crucially, on our domestic economy which constitutes 70% of our GDP, as opposed to the 13% of GDP which is associated with exports to the EU.
To read John Longworth’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.