Brexit: What we learned from Theresa May’s Florence speech

What are your thoughts?

Theresa May does not reveal much new information in today’s speech… 

Much of the rhetoric in the speech was identical to the UK Prime Minister’s previous Brexit speeches, delivered with a flourish fitting for the Florence setting, with talk of “an era of creativity and rebirth” and the UK’s “strong fundamentals”. However, we did glean some insights from this afternoon’s speech in Florence. 

What did we learn? 

Today’s speech was brought to you by the word “profound” and the letters “Q” and “A”. 

It could be argued that we learned more from the Q&A with the media than from the speech itself, as there weren’t any real answers to their questions. 

Key points 

The Pound is back on that rollercoaster…

The speech has created more volatility for the Pound, which jumped a little before the speech was out, then dropped noticeably, and now seems to be getting back to the current “normal”. 

Rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU

There has been a commitment to the rights of EU citizens in the UK and vice versa; “ensuring you can carry on living your lives as before.” Mrs May said that they are “negotiating this and very close to ensuring this agreement.” 

Protection for Northern Ireland


The Prime Minister stated the importance of protecting the progress made to date in Northern Ireland. She stated that through the process of withdrawal from the EU, they will protect the Belfast Agreement and Common Travel Area. Mrs May confirmed that “we will not accept any physical infrastructure at the border.”

Economic partnership

Mrs May confirmed that the UK leaving EU means we will no longer be members of the single market or customs union.

So far suggestions have been to work as part of the EEA, like Norway, for example, or in the style of the Canadian Free Trade Agreement model – but the government doesn’t believe either would be good for the UK, as they are too restrictive in terms of market access. In an element of the speech already leaked to the press, she commented, “Let’s not seek merely to use a model adopted by other countries, but let’s be creative…”

Brexit is Brexit?

Prime Minister May confirmed that we will cease to be EU Member on 29 March, 2019.

However, she confirmed that people and businesses in the UK and EU would benefit from a transitional period, where access to markets should continue on its current terms. She pointed out that a framework for this strictly limited time period is under Article 50 and cited the new immigration process as an area that will need time for preparation and implementation.

She estimates that this would be around a two-year implementation period, stating that these arrangements will create “valuable certainty”.

Mrs May also raised the concerns from other EU members about the financial implications of the UK leaving the EU, committing to “cover our fair share of the costs involved.”

She emphasises the need for friendly, sensible negotiations going forward, saying, “The tone I want to set is one of partnership and friendship. If we approach the negotiations in the right way, it can work for both the UK and the EU.”

There was much talk of partnership and cooperation on key issues. “Britain will always stand with its allies. Again, Mrs May quoted her previous speeches by saying, “We may be leaving the EU, but not leaving Europe.”

She also referred to the devolved parliaments in the UK and their role in the way forward for UK law and policy.

Mrs May also recalled a theme from previous speeches by emphasising the continued commitment of the UK to the EU: “The success of EU is profoundly within our interest.”

Finally, what stuck in my mind in both the preview of the speech and the speech itself was the reference to the UK’s “indomitable spirit”. While that’s all very nice, I can’t help but think of the Indominus Rex in Jurassic World…

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