In a major speech outlining the 12 objectives for the negotiations for leaving the EU, the Prime Minister set out her vision for a “Global Britain”. The speech was intended to give confidence and reassurance regarding the Government’s negotiating position and to provide some certainty and clarity. To some extent, it achieved this. However, this is the start of a very long process where no one can accurately predict the final outcome.
Key to this was explicit confirmation that the UK would not remain a member of the Single Market and that they would “pursue a bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. This agreement should allow for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states” which would “give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets – and let European businesses do the same in Britain.” This is a worthy aspiration but may be very difficult to achieve.
The Prime Minister made it clear that she did not want Britain to remain a full member of the Customs Union and specifically does not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy or to be bound by the Common External Tariff. However, what the negotiated customs agreement with the EU might look like is very unclear.
The Prime Minister ended speculation on whether Parliament would be given the opportunity to vote on the final deal, confirming that Government would put this to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.
The Prime Minister recognised the need for certainty “to provide business, the public sector, and everybody with as much certainty as possible as we move through the process. So where we can offer that certainty, we will do so.” She confirmed that as the European Communities Act is repealed the body of existing EU law will be converted into British law which also aims to increase certainty. “The same rules and laws will apply on the day after Brexit as they did before”.
It is encouraging that one of the 12 objectives is specifically to ensure that Britain is the best place for science and innovation. “A Global Britain must also be a country that looks to the future. That means being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. One of our great strengths as a nation is the breadth and depth of our academic and scientific communities, backed up by some of the world’s best universities. And we have a proud history of leading and supporting cutting-edge research and innovation. So we will also welcome agreement to continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives. From space exploration to clean energy to medical technologies, Britain will remain at the forefront of collective endeavours to better understand, and make better, the world in which we live.”
The Prime Minister’s final objective is to ensure a smooth, orderly Brexit so that there should be no cliff-edge for business. She hopes “to have reached an agreement about our future partnership by the time the two-year Article Fifty process has concluded. From that point onwards, we believe a phased process of implementation, in which both Britain and the EU institutions and member states prepare for the new arrangements that will exist between us will be in our mutual self-interest. This will give businesses enough time to plan and prepare for those new arrangements”. She acknowledged that the timescale for phasing in new arrangements will vary depending on the issue and again, it is very unclear exactly what this arrangement might look like and how it will really differ from the transitional status which the Prime Minister wants to avoid.