The prime minister insisted Brexit will go ahead and be a success in a speech to the House of Commons today. ‘By approaching these negotiations in a constructive way, in a spirit of friendship and cooperation and with our sights firmly set on the future, I believe we can prove the doomsayers wrong,’ she told MPs.
The ball is in the EU’s court when it comes to negotiations, she claimed. She was accused again of not giving enough specifics when she said: ‘The offer we have made to the EU is a deep and special partnership. We do want to ensure that the trading relationship we have can be as tariff free and frictionless as possible.
‘We want to negotiate deals around the world as well – I think that is reasonable and that is what the government will be pursuing.’ But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised her approach, saying that 15 months after the referendum we are still ‘no clearer to finding out what the future of this country will look like.
‘Rather than fighting over their own jobs, the reality is that millions of people’s jobs and living standards depend on the strength of these negotiations.
‘If this government can’t negotiate a deal for Britain, they should make way for a team that can.’ Mrs May’s speech called for the EU to be flexible, saying she did not want to totally withdraw.
Her approach was to ‘pave the way for legislation to allow the UK to operate as an independent trading nation and to create an innovative customs system that will help us achieve the greatest possible tariff and barrier-free trade as we leave the EU,’ she said.
When it comes to Northern Ireland, she said she did not want to see a physical border – a tricky issue as any move to create one could derail the peace process.
‘We have now begun drafting joint principles on preserving the Common Travel Area, and associated rights and we have both stated explicitly we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border,’ she said.
‘We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland and indeed to everyone on the island of Ireland to get this right.’