Theresa May will tell EU leaders she wants the “deepest and broadest possible” trade agreement with the bloc as she seeks to lay the ground for the next phase of the Brexit negotiations.
In a keenly awaited keynote address on Friday, the Prime Minister will set out her vision of a free trade deal based on maintaining “high standards” of regulation, while managing any future divergence by the UK from existing EU rules.
While she will say that she wants Britain to have the freedom to strike trade deals around the world, it should be possible to agree a relationship with the EU where they continue to “support each other’s interests”.
At the same time she will stress that any agreement must respect the outcome of the 2016 referendum vote to take back control of “our borders, laws and money”.
After her angry rejection on Wednesday of a draft EU proposal for Northern Ireland to remain in the single market and the customs union – unlike the rest of the UK – to avoid the return of hard border with the Republic, she will say it must also preserve the UK’s “union of nations”.
Speaking at the Mansion House in the City of London – after the venue was switched from the North East due to the weather conditions – Mrs May will set out “five tests” to guide Britain’s approach to the continuing negotiations.
– The agreement must respect the outcome of the referendum vote to “take control of our borders, laws and money”.
– The agreement must endure, without the need to return to the negotiating table “because things have broken down”.
– It must protect jobs and security, with Britain and the EU continuing to pursue the “shared goals” of growing their economies while keeping their people safe.
– It must be consistent with Britain remaining “a modern, open, outward-looking, tolerant, European democracy” that stands by its international obligations.
– It must strengthen “our union of nations and our union of people”.
Mrs May will say: “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.”
Her speech comes after European Council president Donald Tusk warned that her insistence on taking Britain out of the single market and the customs union meant it could not enjoy “frictionless trade” with the EU after Brexit.
At talks in Downing Street on Thursday, where she briefed him on the address, Mr Tusk told her: “Friction is an inevitable side-effect of Brexit by nature.”
In her address, entitled Our Future Partnership, the Prime Minister will insist that a deal is achievable, as it is in the “shared interest” of both the UK and the EU.
She will argue that as a “champion of free trade based on high standards”, Britain should be able to agree a “bold and comprehensive economic partnership” with the EU, while striking new trade deals around the world.
“What I am seeking is a relationship that goes beyond the transactional to one where we support each other’s interests,” she will say.
“So I want the broadest and deepest possible agreement – covering more sectors and co-operating more fully than any free trade agreement anywhere in the world today.”
“I believe that is achievable because it is in the EU’s interests as well as ours and because of our unique starting point, where on day one we both have the same laws and rules.”
“So rather than having to bring two different systems closer together, the task will be to manage the relationship once we are two separate legal systems.”
For Labour, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Mrs May had still not set out a credible vision for Brexit.
“Twenty months after the referendum, the Government still has no answers to the critical questions facing the negotiations.”
“On the contrary, the Government is paralysed by its own divisions,” he said.
“Theresa May must now prove once and for all that she has the authority and vision to negotiate Britain’s exit from the European Union.”