[...] There is a vibrant debate going on about the shape of the EU’s institutions and the direction of the Union in the years ahead. We don’t want to stand in the way of that.
Indeed, we want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU, and the UK thrive side by side.
And that partnership is important. For as we look ahead, we see shared challenges and opportunities in common. [...]
Our decision to leave the European Union is in no way a repudiation of this longstanding commitment. We may be leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.
Our resolve to draw on the full weight of our military, intelligence, diplomatic and development resources to lead international action, with our partners, on the issues that affect the security and prosperity of our peoples is unchanged.
Our commitment to the defence - and indeed the advance - of our shared values is undimmed.
Our determination to defend the stability, security and prosperity of our European neighbours and friends remains steadfast.
The decision of the British people
And we will do all this as a sovereign nation in which the British people are in control.
Their decision to leave the institution of the European Union was an expression of that desire - a statement about how they want their democracy to work.
They want more direct control of decisions that affect their daily lives; and that means those decisions being made in Britain by people directly accountable to them.
The strength of feeling that the British people have about this need for control and the direct accountability of their politicians is one reason why, throughout its membership, the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union.
And perhaps because of our history and geography, the European Union never felt to us like an integral part of our national story in the way it does to so many elsewhere in Europe.
It is a matter of choices. The profound pooling of sovereignty that is a crucial feature of the European Union permits unprecedentedly deep cooperation, which brings benefits.
But it also means that when countries are in the minority they must sometimes accept decisions they do not want, even affecting domestic matters with no market implications beyond their borders. And when such decisions are taken, they can be very hard to change.
So the British electorate made a choice. They chose the power of domestic democratic control over pooling that control, strengthening the role of the UK Parliament and the devolved Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies in deciding our laws.
That is our choice. It does not mean we are no longer a proud member of the family of European nations. And it does not mean we are turning our back on Europe; or worse that we do not wish the EU to succeed. The success of the EU is profoundly in our national interest and that of the wider world. [...]
[...]The UK government, the Irish government and the EU as a whole have been clear that through the process of our withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over recent years – and the lives and livelihoods that depend on this progress.
As part of this, we and the EU have committed to protecting the Belfast Agreement and the Common Travel Area and, looking ahead, we have both stated explicitly that we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border.
We owe it to the people of Northern Ireland – and indeed to everyone on the island of Ireland - to see through these commitments.
We have also made significant progress on how we look after European nationals living in the UK and British nationals living in the 27 Member States of the EU.
I know this whole process has been a cause of great worry and anxiety for them and their loved ones.
But I want to repeat to the 600,000 Italians in the UK – and indeed to all EU citizens who have made their lives in our country – that we want you to stay; we value you; and we thank you for your contribution to our national life – and it has been, and remains, one of my first goals in this negotiation to ensure that you can carry on living your lives as before.
I am clear that the guarantee I am giving on your rights is real. And I doubt anyone with real experience of the UK would doubt the independence of our courts or of the rigour with which they will uphold people’s legal rights.
But I know there are concerns that over time the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens overseas will diverge. I want to incorporate our agreement fully into UK law and make sure the UK courts can refer directly to it.
Where there is uncertainty around underlying EU law, I want the UK courts to be able to take into account the judgments of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent interpretation. On this basis, I hope our teams can reach firm agreement quickly.
Let me start with the economic partnership.
The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. We will no longer be members of its single market or its customs union. For we understand that the single market’s four freedoms are indivisible for our European friends.
We recognise that the single market is built on a balance of rights and obligations. And we do not pretend that you can have all the benefits of membership of the single market without its obligations.
So our task is to find a new framework that allows for a close economic partnership but holds those rights and obligations in a new and different balance.
But as we work out together how to do so, we do not start with a blank sheet of paper, like other external partners negotiating a free trade deal from scratch have done.
In fact, we start from an unprecedented position. For we have the same rules and regulations as the EU - and our EU Withdrawal Bill will ensure they are carried over into our domestic law at the moment we leave the EU.
So the question for us now in building a new economic partnership is not how we bring our rules and regulations closer together, but what we do when one of us wants to make changes.
One way of approaching this question is to put forward a stark and unimaginative choice between two models: either something based on European Economic Area membership; or a traditional Free Trade Agreement, such as that the EU has recently negotiated with Canada.
I don’t believe either of these options would be best for the UK or best for the European Union. [...]
As I said at Lancaster House, let us not seek merely to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries. Instead let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people.
I believe there are good reasons for this level of optimism and ambition.
First of all, the UK is the EU’s largest trading partner, one of the largest economies in the world, and a market of considerable importance for many businesses and jobs across the continent. And the EU is our largest trading partner, so it is in all our interests to find a creative solution. [...]
So there is no need to impose tariffs where we have none now, and I don’t think anyone sensible is contemplating this.
And as we have set out in a future partnership paper, when it comes to trade in goods, we will do everything we can to avoid friction at the border. But of course the regulatory issues are crucial.
We share a commitment to high regulatory standards. [...]
And because rights and obligations must be held in balance, the decisions we both take will have consequences for the UK’s access to European markets and vice versa.
To make this partnership work, because disagreements inevitably arise, we will need a strong and appropriate dispute resolution mechanism.
It is, of course, vital that any agreement reached – its specific terms and the principles on which it is based – are interpreted in the same way by the European Union and the United Kingdom and we want to discuss how we do that.
This could not mean the European Court of Justice – or indeed UK courts - being the arbiter of disputes about the implementation of the agreement between the UK and the EU however.
It wouldn’t be right for one party’s court to have jurisdiction over the other. But I am confident we can find an appropriate mechanism for resolving disputes.
So this new economic partnership, would be comprehensive and ambitious. It would be underpinned by high standards, and a practical approach to regulation that enables us to continue to work together in bringing shared prosperity to our peoples for generations to come. [...]
Our relations with countries outside the EU can be developed in new ways, including through our own trade negotiations, because we will no longer be an EU country, and we will no longer directly benefit from the EU’s future trade negotiations.
But the fact is that, at that point, neither the UK - nor the EU and its Members States - will be in a position to implement smoothly many of the detailed arrangements that will underpin this new relationship we seek.
Neither is the European Union legally able to conclude an agreement with the UK as an external partner while it is itself still part of the European Union.
And such an agreement on the future partnership will require the appropriate legal ratification, which would take time.
It is also the case that people and businesses – both in the UK and in the EU – would benefit from a period to adjust to the new arrangements in a smooth and orderly way.
As I said in my speech at Lancaster House a period of implementation would be in our mutual interest. That is why I am proposing that there should be such a period after the UK leaves the EU.
Clearly people, businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU.
So during the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain also should continue to take part in existing security measures. And I know businesses, in particular, would welcome the certainty this would provide.
The framework for this strictly time-limited period, which can be agreed under Article 50, would be the existing structure of EU rules and regulations.
How long the period is should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and new systems that will underpin that future partnership.
For example, it will take time to put in place the new immigration system required to re-take control of the UK’s borders.
So during the implementation period, people will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK; but there will be a registration system – an essential preparation for the new regime.
As of today, these considerations point to an implementation period of around two years.
But because I don’t believe that either the EU or the British people will want the UK to stay longer in the existing structures than is necessary, we could also agree to bring forward aspects of that future framework such as new dispute resolution mechanisms more quickly if this can be done smoothly.
It is clear that what would be most helpful to people and businesses on both sides, who want this process to be smooth and orderly, is for us to agree the detailed arrangements for this implementation period as early as possible. Although we recognise that the EU institutions will need to adopt a formal position.
And at the heart of these arrangements, there should be a clear double lock: a guarantee that there will be a period of implementation giving businesses and people alike the certainty that they will be able to prepare for the change; and a guarantee that this implementation period will be time-limited, giving everyone the certainty that this will not go on for ever. [...]
Still I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave. The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.
And as we move forwards, we will also want to continue working together in ways that promote the long-term economic development of our continent.
This includes continuing to take part in those specific policies and programmes which are greatly to the UK and the EU’s joint advantage, such as those that promote science, education and culture – and those that promote our mutual security.
And as I set out in my speech at Lancaster House, in doing so, we would want to make an ongoing contribution to cover our fair share of the costs involved. [...]
Statement by Michel Barnier
In her speech in Florence, Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed a constructive spirit which is also the spirit of the European Union during this unique negotiation.
The speech shows a willingness to move forward, as time is of the essence. We need to reach an agreement by autumn 2018 on the conditions of the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union. The UK will become a third country on 30 March 2019.
Our priority is to protect the rights of citizens. EU27 citizens in the United Kingdom must have the same rights as British citizens today in the European Union. These rights must be implemented effectively and safeguarded in the same way in the United Kingdom as in the European Union, as recalled by the European Council and European Parliament. Prime Minister May's statements are a step forward but they must now be translated into a precise negotiating position of the UK government.
With regard to Ireland, the United Kingdom is the co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. Today's speech does not clarify how the UK intends to honour its special responsibility for the consequences of its withdrawal for Ireland. Our objective is to preserve the Good Friday Agreement in all its dimensions, as well as the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.
The United Kingdom recognises that no Member State will have to pay more or receive less because of Brexit. We stand ready to discuss the concrete implications of this pledge. We shall assess, on the basis of the commitments taken by the 28 Member States, whether this assurance covers all commitments made by the United Kingdom as a Member State of the European Union.
Today, for the first time, the United Kingdom government has requested to continue to benefit from access to the Single Market, on current terms, and to continue to benefit from existing cooperation in security. This is for a limited period of up to two years, beyond its withdrawal date, and therefore beyond its departure from the EU institutions.
If the European Union so wishes, this new request could be taken into account. [...]
The EU shares the goal of establishing an ambitious partnership for the future. The fact that the government of the United Kingdom recognises that leaving the European Union means that it cannot keep all the benefits of membership with fewer obligations than the other Member States is welcome. In any case, the future relationship will need to be based on a balance of rights and obligations. It will need to respect the integrity of the Union's legal order and the autonomy of its decision-making.
The EU will continue to insist on sufficient progress in the key areas of the orderly withdrawal of the United Kingdom before opening discussions on the future relationship. Agreeing on the essential principles in these areas will create the trust that is needed for us to build a future relationship together. [...]
Related articles and reactions:
Bloomberg: May's Florence Speech: the Key Changes in Her Brexit Stance
Theresa May in Florence: FT commentators on the Brexit speech
The Guardian view on May in Florence: a small step towards reality
The Observer view on Theresa May’s Florence speech
Labour MEPs: PM’s Brexit speech still leaves the big questions unanswered
OMFIF: Mrs May shuffles the cards in Florence but cannot change them
Open Europe responds to Theresa May’s Florence speech
EPC: Theresa May's Florence speech: much ado about nothing
© Department for Exiting the European Union