Theresa May delivered an emphatic ultimatum to EU leaders yesterday – warning she will walk away if they offer her a ‘bad’ Brexit deal. In an iron-willed speech, the Prime Minister told Brussels that not striking a trade agreement with the UK would be an ‘act of calamitous self-harm’. Setting out her 12-point ‘plan for Britain’, Mrs May said she was confident the EU would agree to tariff-free trade because it was the ‘economically rational’ thing to do. But, addressing stunned EU ambassadors, she threatened to set Britain up as a low-tax rival if European leaders tried to impose a punitive deal. Mrs May declared: ‘No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain. Because we would still be able to trade with Europe. We would be free to strike trade deals across the world.
Theresa May has signalled she is willing to drag Britain through the hardest of Brexits, risking the loss of billions of pounds and plummeting GDP, if both Brussels and the UK’s Parliament fail to give her what she wants. In an act of brinkmanship, the Prime Minister warned she will walk away from EU withdrawal talks without a future trade agreement if other countries try to impose a “bad deal”. She agreed to give British MPs a vote on any terms she does agree, but her office then said that if the House of Commons dares to reject them, the UK would still leave the EU, most likely without any other agreement in place. Ms May deployed the threats despite the Treasury’s own estimations having previously suggested quitting the EU without a new arrangement could strip £66bn from the national income, with GDP dropping by up to 9.5 per cent. She also confirmed that Britain will leave the EU’s single market – despite backing membership less than a year ago – to regain control of immigration policy and said she wants to renegotiate the UK’s customs agreement and seek a transition period to phase in changes.
Theresa May unveiled her priorities for negotiating Britain’s way out of the EU – and her European counterparts are having their say. In a speech in London, the Prime Minister sent a warning shot to other EU nations, saying any attempt to enforce a punitive deal on the UK would be an “act of self-harm”. But the EU’s lead negotiator Guy Verhofstadt has previously said he would not accept any Brexit deal that left Britain better off out than in. Mrs May confirmed she was prepared to yank Britain out of the Single Market, but would be open to “associate membership” of the customs union. Here’s how some of Mrs May’s future negotiating rivals reacted to her speech.
THE Prime Minister could hold a snap general election if Remain-leaning MPs veto her Brexit deal. Theresa May also talked tough to EU leaders by throwing Britain’s world-beating security and intelligence abilities on to the Article 50 negotiating table. During her landmark Lancaster House speech, Mrs May finally bowed to MPs’ demands by pledging to give them a say on the final Brexit terms in a vote in both Houses of Parliament. But when quizzed on whether she would allow the result to bind her and keep Britain in the EU, she would say only: “I am sure the British parliament will want to deliver on the views of the British people in respect to the democratic decision taken.” Ministers confirmed the Prime Minister wants to be able to call a fresh nationwide poll in 2019 to win a popular mandate for her Brexit deal, if it proves necessary.
Theresa May warned Brussels yesterday that any attempt to punish Britain for leaving the EU would be “an act of calamitous self-harm” as she set out her Brexit vision for the first time. Taking a tough stance before exit negotiations begin, the prime minister insisted that she would walk away from the talks if offered a bad deal. Britain could lower tax rates to lure businesses from the Continent, she warned, while a lack of flexibility from Brussels risked “crushing into tiny pieces” the EU project. Mrs May called on the EU to wrap up a separation agreement and new trade deal within the next two years. She confirmed that Britain would leave the single market.
Theresa May warned European leaders that the UK is prepared to crash out of the EU if she cannot negotiate a reasonable exit deal in a speech where her tough talking rhetoric prompted key figures in Brussels to say that the country was on track for a “hard Brexit”. The prime minister told EU counterparts that any attempt to inflict a punitive outcome on the UK would be an “act of calamitous self-harm” because it would then slash taxes to attract companies from across the world, in a one-hour address intended to spell out the country’s negotiating strategy. Although May said that the UK could be the EU’s “best friend” if the article 50 divorce talks went well, she also said she was prepared to walk away. “And while I am confident that this scenario need never arise – while I am sure a positive agreement can be reached – I am equally clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she said.
David Davis has said he would make “no apology” for the Prime Minister’s threat to EU leaders that a bad Brexit deal would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. The Brexit Secretary told Sky News Theresa May was right to set out “ambitious” plans for a deal with the EU and that it would be in their “best interests” to do a deal that worked for both. In her key Brexit speech on Tuesday, Mrs May warned the EU that “no deal was better than a bad deal” and made clear she would be happy to work away.
Labour’s Brexit spokesman provoked surprise by telling MPs that Theresa May’s strategy would “fall short of hard Brexit” if she achieves her aims. Sir Keir Starmer broke with the Liberal Democrats and Greens by arguing the Prime Minister had tempered her plans and “accepted” some of Labour’s demands. The comments came despite Ms May threatening to quit the EU with no fresh trade agreement, saying: “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.” And they were in stark contrast to the anger of some Labour MPs, who warned of Britain crashing out with no replacement for the single market – at huge cost to the economy. One, Pat McFadden, asked Brexit Secretary David Davis what assessment had been made of the effect of leaving the single market on “trade, jobs and prosperity” – but got no answer. He told Mr Davis: “Today is what you get when you let immigration policy dominate economic policy.”
The European Parliament’s point man for Brexit negotiations has said Theresa May is creating an “illusion” after she outlined Britain’s plan for leaving the European Union. Guy Verhofstadt said the United Kingdom would not be allowed to “cherry pick” the benefits of the EU but said it was important that clarity had been given on the country’s position. The former Prime Minister of Belgium made the statement at the European Parliament and also said it was “not very helpful” that there had been discussions about Britain becoming a tax haven. “I think it creates an illusion that you can go out of the single market and the customs union and you can cherry pick and still have a number of advantages. “I think this will not happen. We shall never accept a situation in which it is better to be outside the single market than be a member of the European union,” Mr Verhofstadt said. “If you want the advantages you of a single market and customs union, you have to take the obligations,” he added.
Brussels chief Donald Tusk said the EU was ‘ready to negotiate’ with Britain after he welcomed Theresa May’s ‘realistic’ plan for Brexit. The EU Council President spoke with the Prime Minister tonight – but he kept her waiting while he completed calls with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande. Germany offered a cautious welcome to her blueprint for Britain’s EU divorce, praising her for offering ‘clarity’. But the country’s foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned talks could still not begin until the UK formally signals its intent to leave. Mrs May plans to do this before the end of March but is still awaiting a ruling from the UK Supreme Court on her powers for doing so.
Newspapers across Europe have given their verdicts on Theresa May’s Brexit speech – and many are less than favourable. Germany’s Die Welt mocked the Prime Minister with a headline of “Little Britain”. In France, Liberation splashed – at least some of – their front page with the speech, suggesting that with Brexit looming, Donald Trump about to take over the US presidency and the threat of Vladimir Putin, Europe was facing a “sink or swim” moment. Meanwhile, the country’s Le Figaro newspaper states “Theresa May ready to break completely with Europe”. The Irish Independent calls the Brexit open border plan “an illusion”. Italian broadsheet La Repubblica splashes “Brexit. London puts up its wall ‘Out of EU and single market’”. Italy’s Corriere della Sera features the Prime Minister’s photograph at the centre of its front page reading “Theresa May’s clear cut”.
BRUSSELS bigwig Donald Tusk this afternoon said he was “sad” about Theresa May’s plan for a clean Brexit as officials confirmed Jean-Claude Juncker is set to call the PM within hours. Eurocrats this afternoon scrambled to respond to the prime minister’s landmark speech in London, in which she pledged to pull Britain fully out of the European Union. The historic announcement effectively ends the lingering hopes any officials in Brussels had that Brexit could still be averted and puts Europe on notice about Britain’s intentions for the upcoming divorce negotiations. Earlier today an EU spokesman had refused to comment on the content of the prime minister’s speech other than to say that European leaders would be listening in with interest. But this afternoon EU Council president Mr Tusk offered the first insight into the feeling in Brussels as he tweeted: “Sad process, surrealistic times but at least more realistic announcement on Brexit. EU 27 united and ready to negotiate after Art. 50.”
European leaders and industry chiefs welcomed the clarity brought by Theresa May’s Brexit speech, but said the course she had chosen would hurt Britain more than the remaining EU member states. Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, summed up the bloc’s official reaction in a tweet: “Sad process, surrealistic times, but at least more realistic announcement on Brexit. EU27 united and ready to negotiate after article 50.” Less officially, Volker Treier, of the German chamber of industry and commerce, made it clear that Britain’s departure from the single market and customs union would do substantial damage to business ties between the UK and Germany. “Without a doubt a hard Brexit limits chances of growth on both sides of the Channel. But for Britain the economic damage is likely to be greater,” Treier said, adding that the UK had chosen to “lower its economic attractiveness”.
A TOP eurocrat today grilled Boris Johnson over a possible trade deal between Britain and the United States and told him there can be NO talks on an agreement until Brexit has been fully completed. In a series of blunt remarks, Brussels’ foreign minister Federica Mogherini said it was “absolutely clear” that the UK cannot negotiate with Donald Trump’s administration on even an informal basis until it has fully left the bloc. And she got in a sly dig at Theresa May over how long it has taken the Government to trigger Article 50, questioning why Britain was “still here” seven months after voters chose to quit the troubled bloc.
The European Parliament will demand full participation in Brexit negotiations as part of a deal struck to secure the Presidency for the Italian MEP Antonio Tajani. The centre right European People’s Party candidate and long-time adviser to former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is likely to win having reached an agreement with liberal Guy Verhofstadt. As part of that deal Mr Tajani has agreed that the Parliament’s Brexit resolution, to be drafted after Article 50 notification is triggered, will insist in full participation in the Brexit negotiations. “Both groups will act to ensure the full involvement of the European Parliament in the Brexit negotiations so that the interests of the European citizens are fully taken on board,” the agreement between the pair said.
An OUTRAGEOUS tweet claiming Theresa May’s EU Brexit plan is “telling the EU go f*** yourself” has sparked a major row. A German MEP accused the prime minister of attacking the EU while begging the bloc not to “let us down.” Jan Philipp Albrecht has accused the British Prime Minister of whining about the EU potentially blocking Britain in future trade deals. Some have called for the MEP to delete his account after summing up the PM’s promise of a hard-Brexit with a four-letter insult. One tweeter said to Albrecht: “Seriously you are an MEP.” Another bemused tweeter asked if the MEP is “related to Trump”, the president-elect infamous for posting controversial messages on the social media channel. Another wrote: “Tell it like it is. Bravo” The tweet, which sparked a heated row on Twitter, has already been retweeted 100 times since it was posted at midday.
An ecstatic Nigel Farage hailed Theresa May for stealing Ukip’s “phrases and words”, within minutes of her landmark Brexit speech. But the apparent confirmation that a ‘hard Brexit’ is coming was branded a “theft of democracy” by the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the speech carried an “implied threat” that Britain will become a “low-tax bargain basement economy on the offshores of Europe”. And the Irish Government said, in a quickly-issued statement: “This will inevitably be seen by many as a “hard exit.” In a single tweet, Mr Farage summed up the delight among Brexit supporters that many of the doubts about Britain’s EU exit had now been removed. He said: “I can hardly believe that the PM is now using the phrases and words that I’ve been mocked for using for years. Real progress.”
Nicola Sturgeon has warned a hard Brexit “threatens to be economically catastrophic” for the UK and intimated that a second referendum on Scottish independence is now “more likely”. Scotland’s First Minister was reacting to Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech setting out her negotiation priorities for Brexit. Ms May said the UK would leave the single market – though attempt to maintain the “greatest possible access” to it – while forging a “bold” trade deal with the EU and similar new agreements around the world. The final Brexit deal will be put before Parliament, Ms May promised, but warned European leaders that trying to impose a “punitive” settlement would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”, adding “no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal”. But Ms Sturgeon said Westminster must take seriously her proposal that Scotland be allowed the option of staying in the single market, and that Parliament “cannot be allowed to act against Scotland’s wishes and our interests”.
NICOLA Sturgeon has hit out at Theresa May’s Brexit plans as she accused the Prime Minister of giving in to the wealthiest and the “obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party” while hinting of another independence referendum. The First Minister of Scotland said Mrs May’s plans are “not in our national interests” because Scotland did not vote for Brexit. She said it is “now clear” the UK is heading for a hard Brexit which she said could be “economically catastrophic”. The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader said: “Decisions are being driven not by the rational best interests of the country, but by the obsessions of the hard-right of the Tory party.
Britain’s public finances are on an “unsustainable path” with an ageing population and the rising cost of healthcare, a watchdog warned. A 50-year forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said that chancellors would need to raise taxes or cut spending if the government were to stand any chance of fulfilling its pledge to balance Britain’s finances. It said an extra £156 billion would have to be found by 2066-67 to fund the gap in healthcare costs.
Doctor have accused Theresa May of making GPs scapegoats to divert attention from the crisis in the Health Service. In a strongly worded open letter, their union has attacked the Government for ‘putting lives at risk’ by slashing funding. The intervention by the British Medical Association follows a warning by the Prime Minister that GPs were partly to blame for the pressure on A&E by closing their surgeries early. But leading GPs and a senior Tory MP hit back to insist that the problems were largely due to funding cuts. Now the BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter has gone further with the letter and a request for an immediate meeting with the Prime Minister to ‘work out a solution’. He wrote: ‘I have been horrified to see the position which you have taken in responding to the current crisis in the NHS in England.
Taxes will have to rise by £30 billion a decade to keep pace with the costs of an ageing population, an official report warned yesterday. In a sobering analysis, the Office for Budget Responsibility said spending on health alone is set to double to £250 billion a year, blowing an ‘unsustainable’ hole in Britain’s public finances. The cost of social care will also double to almost £40 billion a year – placing further pressure on health budgets. And, in a triple whammy for the public finances, pension costs are also set to soar by more than a third. The OBR suggested tax rises of £30 billion a decade – equal to £1,000 per taxpayer – will be needed to get Britain’s public finances back to pre-crisis levels. The watchdog said: ‘Rising healthcare costs could make it harder for the Chancellor to balance the budget in the next Parliament and put the public finances on an unsustainable path over the longer term in the absence of further tax increases or cuts in other public spending.’
ASLEF has suspended three days of strike action against rail franchise Southern next week after the company agreed to talks. The train drivers’ union and Southern will meet tomorrow under the joint chairmanship of TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady and seperate rail operator Abellio’s humanresources director Andy Meadows. In a joint statement, Ms O’Grady and Mr Meadows said: “We are committed to finding a fair solution to this dispute. We are pleased the parties have agreed to meet for meaningful talks.” The talks are intended to resolve the long-running dispute over Southern’s decision to bring in driver-only trains. Three days of strikes last week affected thousands of passengers, who have endured months of disruption on the failing franchise. The RMT union, whose members are set to strike on Monday in their dispute with Southern over the removal of safety-critical guards from trains, has written to the TUC requesting the union be involved in the same talks.
Crucial talks will be held later in a bid to avert fresh strikes by rail and Tube workers. Officials from the train drivers’ union Aslef will meet managers from Southern Railway to prevent separate strikes over staffing and jobs. Three days of industrial action, originally scheduled for next week, have been suspended whilst an overtime ban ended at midnight on Tuesday. Thousands of passengers were hit by three days of strikes last week, after enduring months of disruption because of industrial action, staff shortages and other issues.