Theresa May has failed to deliver any clarity on Brexit in her much anticipated speech aimed at EU leaders in Florence.
The Prime Minister asked for agreement on a two-year transition deal after May 2019, making clear the UK would be unable to untangle itself from the EU within the time-frame set out in Article 50, and argued that UK and EU businesses should only have to adapt once to the UK leaving the European Union.
Despite previous comments from her ministers, May now concedes that a transitional deal, underpinned by the current EU rules, regulations, and judiciary is required before the UK can leave the EU. She also said that Britain would pay its “fair share” into the EU budget, contradicting everything ministers previously said on the topic of a Brexit bill.
The government has still not managed to agree on a negotiating strategy, and May’s speech in Florence will do little to quell the growing impatience of the British public with a government that appears to have no idea what it wants or how to achieve it.
In the wake of the speech, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC that most MPs and businesses had already made agreed on the case for a transitional deal, and it was only those in May’s own cabinet that had failed to see appreciate that fact. He said:
“She’s had 15 months to think about that and she’s gone all the way to Florence … to tell us what we already know.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable agreed that May’s call for a transitional deal now echos that of Labour, but argues that any such deal merely kicks the economic pain of Brexit down the road.
“Both the Conservatives and Labour have now essentially converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay the economic pain caused by an extreme Brexit,” says Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable.
“Voters were promised £350m a week for the NHS. Instead, Theresa May is admitting the UK will have to pay a hefty Brexit bill worth billions of pounds.
“No wonder the Brexiteers are terrified of giving the British people the final say through a referendum on the facts.”
Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley was similarly exacerbated by the fact that “we’re still no closer to knowing what kind of Brexit the PM is fantasising about” or anything about the security ofEU national who currently live in the UK.
General Secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, said the Prime Minister “is still pretending we can have our cake and eat it in the long-term” and called on the government to level with the British people about the “trade-offs” involved in leaving the EU.