Brexit a ‘defining moment’ for a ‘strong, self-governing global Britain’, May says
The UK faces a "defining moment" as it leaves the European Union, Theresa May said yesterday as she prepared to begin the formal Brexit process.
Legislation allowing the Prime Minister to start the process cleared the UK Parliament on Monday night and Mrs May told MPs she would come to the House of Commons later this month to announce when she has taken that step.
Mrs May said the legislation would receive royal assent within the "coming days", allowing her to keep to her promise of starting the Brexit process by the end of March.
But in a Commons statement following last week's European Council, Mrs May was jeered by opposition MPs as she stressed her desire to see the single market strengthened because her Brexit plan involves leaving it.
Setting out the next steps in her plan, Mrs May said: "We remain on track with the timetable I set out six months ago, and I will return to this House before the end of this month to notify when I have formally triggered Article 50 and begun the process through which the UK will leave the European Union.”
"This will be a defining moment for our whole country as we begin to forge a new relationship with Europe and a new role for ourselves in the world.”
"We will be a strong, self-governing global Britain with control once again over our borders and our laws.”
"We will use this moment of opportunity to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, so that we secure both the right deal for Britain abroad and a better deal for ordinary working people at home."
NO GIB ANSWER
Mrs May took questions on her statement for over an hour and a half.
There was just one question on Gibraltar during that time, but the Prime Minister ducked it and did not provide an answer.
Conservative MP Kevin Foster Forster asked whether Mrs May had discussed with the EC and the Spanish Government “their attitude to the border with Gibraltar” and their attitude to “those separatists” who claim their country can just break away and then re-join the EU.
His question came after news that the Scottish government is planning to hold another referendum on its future in the UK.
Mrs May ignored the first part of the question and focused only on the latter.
She said the Spanish Government “…are very concerned and very clear that it is not possible for a country to break away from a country that is a member of the European Union and to immediately re-join that European Union.”
“This is the Barroso doctrine and has been reaffirmed by the European Commission.”
She added: “As far as Scotland is concerned, independence would not mean membership of the European Union, it would mean that Scotland would remain outside the European Union.”
Just hours before the Prime Minister’s Commons speech, Spain’s Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis set out his government’s position on Scotland.
The Spanish minister, who was briefing reporters during an official visit to Peru, said Scotland will be "at the back of the queue" if it wants to become a member of the European Union if it decides to leave the United Kingdom.
His comments signal that Madrid will be firm on the issue, as it was in 2014 when Scotland voted to remain in the UK.
Spain's conservative Partido Popular government does not want to encourage a separatist movement in Catalonia.
Sr Dastis told reporters in Peru that an independent Scotland "can't just stay in the EU".
Any prospective application to the EU can be vetoed by any member.
Yesterday the European Commission's deputy chief spokesman Alexander Winterstein refused to be drawn on whether Scotland could inherit the UK's membership of the EU without leaving the bloc.
''This is a question that is as interesting as it is hypothetical,'' he told the commission's daily briefing for journalists in Brussels.
He added: ''This negotiation process will be one between the European Union and Her Majesty's Government. We respect the internal constitutional arrangements of all our member states.''
MAY’S BREXIT PLAN
Mrs May revealed little of her strategy but has a long wish list - wanting to win a free trade deal, maintain security cooperation, regain control over immigration and restore sovereignty over British law
Mrs May's plan for Brexit would mean leaving the single market and seeking a comprehensive trade agreement instead.
The Prime Minister was forced to pause to allow the noise in the Commons to die down as she set out her support for "further steps to complete the single market and the digital single market" and the EU trade deal with Canada.
She said she had pressed for an agreement with Japan in the coming months, adding: "These agreements will lay the foundation for our continued trading relationships."
Mrs May said: "At the same time, we will also seize the opportunity to forge our own new trade deals and to reach out beyond the borders of Europe to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act was a historic step and Article 50 would start a "process that will shape this country's future".
He warned: "There is no doubt that if the wrong decisions are made we will pay the price for decades to come.
"So now, more than ever, Britain needs an inclusive Government that listens and acts accordingly.
"However, all the signs are that we have a complacent Government - complacent with our economy, complacent with people's rights, and complacent about the future of this country."