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Theresa May to reveal her five tests for the UK's post-Brexit EU relationship

In a speech today, she will say the UK is taking back control over its borders, laws and money.

Image: Alberto Pezzali/Getty Images

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Theresa May will today outline what she wants to see from the future economic partnership between the UK and EU post-Brexit.

She will set out five tests that will guide the UK throughout the negotiations, and will pledge to deliver the real change the country voted for in June 2016, while also stating that she aims to protect jobs and security

In a much-anticipated major speech, just weeks before trade talks with the European Union are due to begin, May will set out that she wants the “broadest and deepest possible agreement”, aiming to cover more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.

She will say this is “achievable” and in the interests of the EU and Britain because of how closely they are currently aligned.

EU leaders have been pressing the prime minister to clarify what she wants before they agree their position on the future economic partnership at a summit later this month.

Brussels raised the pressure this week with a draft treaty suggesting Northern Ireland could stay in a customs union with the EU while the rest of Britain remained outside.

The proposal was offered as a fall-back option if London failed to come up with a better solution to avoid new customs checks between British-ruled Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, where some fear a hard border could upset the peace process.

But it prompted outrage in Westminster, where May warned it threatened the integrity of her country and was something that “no UK prime minister could ever agree to”.

‘Strengthening the union’

In her speech, which has been relocated to the London’s Mansion House due to the severe weather sweeping Britain, May will stress that any Brexit deal “must strengthen our union of nations”.

She is expected to return to the words she delivered on the steps of 10 Downing Street in July 2016, when she pledged to “forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world and…make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us”.

She is also expected to say:

The agreement we reach with the EU must respect the result of the referendum. It was a vote to take control of our borders, laws and money. And a vote for wider change, so that no community in Britain would ever be left behind again. But it was not a vote for a distant relationship with our neighbours.

May is also expected to say that any new agreement reached with the EU must endure.

“After Brexit both 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,”she will say.

The UK prime minister will also state that while the UK will have a different relationship with Europe, “shared goals” will remain the same.

She is also expected to say:

And fifth, in doing all of these things, it must strengthen our union of nations and our union of people.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.‘So these are the five tests for the deal that we negotiate.

The speech, which is titled “Our Future Partnership”, will set out an ambitious but credible vision for the future and say the UK and EU have a ‘shared interest’ in getting this right.

May says Britain will leave the EU’s single market and customs union after Brexit, in a bid to end mass migration and ensure it no longer has to follow the bloc’s rules.

No severing of ties but keeping the benefits

The EU leaders has warned Britain cannot expect to sever formal ties with its closest trading partner and still reap the same benefits.

EU President Donald Tusk repeated this yesterday when he also visited May in Downing Street, saying: “There can be no frictionless trade outside of the customs union and the single market.”

British eurosceptics warn that staying within those institutions is akin to not leaving the EU at all.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson suggested this week that the row over Northern Ireland’s status was a political ploy to force the government into changing course.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading eurosceptic lawmaker in May’s Conservative party, has said there were “technological solutions” to avoiding a hard Irish border.

He said that for Britain to stay in a customs union, forced to follow EU rules while losing its seat at the table as an EU member, would be “fatal for Brexit”.

However, the main opposition Labour party on Monday came out in favour of the idea, which is already backed by the main business lobby groups.

Their change in stance raises the stakes in parliament, which will vote on the final exit deal and where May has only a slim majority.

Labour’s Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer critcised May’s speech before she had even delivered it.

“What we need are concrete proposals… her ‘red lines but no plan’ strategy has run out of road,” he tweeted last night.

Former prime ministers John Major and Tony Blair this week publicly criticised the government’s hopes of continued frictionless trade outside EU institutions.

“It’s not a question of a tough negotiation or a weak negotiation, it literally is not going to happen,” Blair told BBC radio.

With reporting by  – AFP, 2018

Read: Carles Puigdemont, the face of Catalan independence push, abandons leadership bid

Read: France’s Marine Le Pen charged over Islamic State tweets

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