The Prime Minister made a third key speech on Brexit today. It was a positive one and struck the right tone going forward into the next phase of negotiations. The EU must listen, argues Rory Broomfield.
Theresa May's speech in a snowy London today marked a clear, optimistic and positive statement of intent when it comes to what the UK government wishes to achieve in the next round of negotiations with the EU. The five tests, which restated the desire to respect the referendum result and the integrity of the UK above all, are fundamentals that the UK government should stick to and what the EU and its agencies should respect in the next stage of talks.
This is because the vote in 2016 showed a clear want of the British people to take back control of our laws, money and borders. As such, any measure to weaken such abilities for the UK would be the undermining of democracy from the EU. If the EU27 really claim to respect democracy, then they must respect this.
The integrity of the UK should also not be questioned by the EU - unlike what the EU has done through its draft demands. Northern Ireland is a part of the UK and not the EU. Meddling in the way that the EU seeks to do is unacceptable and must be resisted.
But the speech itself did highlight some areas that both sides could work together on. The idea that the UK would be leaving the EU in order to diverge completely overnight was quashed in what was a very level-headed speech by the Prime Minister. Notwithstanding this, the ability for the UK to diverge in areas where it can benefit its own people should not be ruled out. There were concerns, for instance, over the emphasis on regulatory alignment within the Prime Minister's speech. Obviously this will develop through negotiation, however, the UK cannot be tied to the EU's desire for further centralisation and conformity.
There were though positive points to be made about Theresa May ruling out, once again, the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. This government red line must stay through the negotiation and beyond as without an independent court structure we cannot have taken back control over our laws. With that said, the Prime Minister was suitably pragmatic in that EU law will still have an influence in some areas post-Brexit. This, again, illustrates that the UK is seeking a continued partnership with the EU not built on servitude but on mutually recognised standards.
For those that will be following the progress of these talks and the bilateral future relationship, I would say that the influence of EU agencies over the UK must be monitored. In her speech today, the Prime Minister mentioned Switzerland and the granting of licenses by the Swiss aviation authorities which are subject to ECJ oversight. I want to be positive about the Prime Minister's words in this area but the point must be made that many in Switzerland are not happy about the evolution of the ECJ's role through oversight of this sort. Groups such as Avenir Suisse and political parties such as the EDU/UDF and the SVP/UDC have all questioned the 'legal creep' of the ECJ through the agencies and associations that the Swiss have with the EU. It has been a noticeable trend in the conversation regarding the EU in Switzerland over the past few years. The UK government should, therefore, do as much as it possibly can do to avoid this prospect and, in so doing, ensure against mission creep from the EU going into the future.
With that said, now both sides have shown their initial wants for the next phase of talks. The UK's look sensible, pragmatic but positive, in direct contrast to the EU's. To ensure a long and prosperous partnership, grounded in the principles of democracy and freedom, the EU now needs to climb down from its ivory tower. The Prime Minister has set the right tone - and needs to stick to both her red lines and these five principles. It is time though that the EU starts listing.
All views expressed in contributions by named authors are their own and may not reflect the views of The Freedom Association.