Prime Minister Theresa May will today (Friday 20 July) set out her passionate belief in the Union of Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales and the importance of a Brexit deal that honours the principles of the Belfast Agreement.
The PM will make clear her duty to serve the whole United Kingdom and to govern in the interests of every part of it and will highlight Northern Ireland’s tremendous and cherished contribution to our national life.
Following a meeting with businesses on the border in Fermanagh, the Prime Minister will make clear how a hard border will never be acceptable for the people of Northern Ireland or the UK Government.
In a speech at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, she will reconfirm her firm rejection of the EU’s backstop proposal which would mean the creation of a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
The PM will make clear how the proposal is in breach of the Belfast Agreement, leaving the people of Northern Ireland without their own voice in trade negotiations and would be destabilising for their economy.
She will state: ‘The economic and constitutional dislocation of a formal ‘third country’ customs border within our own country is something I will never accept and I believe no British Prime Minister could ever accept.
‘And as they made clear this week, it is not something the House of Commons will accept either.’
The PM will say that, in implementing the UK-wide result and leaving the European Union, we have a duty to ensure that the outcome we achieve works for the whole UK, including Northern Ireland.
She will say: ‘For all of us who care about our country, for all of us who want this Union of nations to thrive, that duty goes to the heart of what it means to be a United Kingdom and what it means to be a government.
‘Our job is not to deal with Brexit in theory, but to make a success of it in practice for all of our people.’
The PM will say that the notion of a hard border is almost inconceivable: it would not be acceptable for the thousands of people who cross and re-cross between the UK and Ireland every day or for firms whose supply and distribution chains span the border.
The Prime Minister will say that, under the agreement reached at Chequers, the UK has set out how to resolve the border issue through a close future partnership between the UK and the EU.
Through the UK’s proposed free trade area on goods, we will avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at the border, meeting our firm commitments in respect of Northern Ireland.
On the White Paper published last week, the PM will say that we have developed our proposals for the future partnership and it is ‘now for the EU to respond’.
‘Not simply to fall back onto previous positions which have already been proven unworkable. But to evolve their position in kind. And, on that basis, I look forward to resuming constructive discussions.’
The PM will state her firm determination to ‘complete what we have started’ in the Brexit talks.
She will say: ‘We can negotiate a new relationship with the EU that works in our mutual interest.
‘One that honours the referendum result, gives us control of our money, our borders, and our laws.
‘One that sets us on course for a prosperous future, protecting jobs and boosting prosperity.
‘One that safeguards our Union and allows the whole UK to thrive in the years ahead.
‘A brighter future for Northern Ireland – where we restore devolution and come together again as a community to serve the interests of the people.
‘A brighter future for us all, where we put aside past divisions and work as one to meet the challenges and seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
‘I am passionate about that brighter future and the possibilities that are within our grasp. As I said on the day I launched my campaign to become leader of the Conservative and Unionist Party: ‘the process of withdrawal will be complex, and it will require hard work, serious work, and detailed work.’
‘The Government has done that work. The White Paper is our plan for the future. It is the way to the stronger and brighter tomorrow that I know awaits the whole United Kingdom.’