UPDATED Statement from Therese on the EU Withdrawal Agreement


I have received a large amount of correspondence regarding Brexit in the last week, offering a variety of opinions on what we should do next as a country and how I should vote in Parliament. I have already voted for Article 50 so that the UK will be leaving the EU on 29th March 2019.

There will not be a second referendum. The 2016 referendum vote was close but decisive, with over 72% of the population expressing a view. That is the highest turnout of voters in nearly 25 years.

I think there has been a HUGE misunderstanding about the withdrawal agreement published last week. It is NOT the future trade deal. It is the legal text proposed for the Withdrawal Agreement that sets out a detailed process on leaving the EU and the operational rules for how the implementation or transition period will work in practice. Yes, it contains the so-called backstop on Northern Ireland and it has a new option where we could extend the transition period if we have not agreed the new future trade deal by 2020, rather than use the backstop.

Why have this transition period at all? I know some people would prefer to have no deal at all with the EU or think that we should negotiate without this transition period. I do not understand the logic of not wanting a deal, when the EU market is our largest single trading partner, yet we want to sign deals with other nations. In a no-deal situation, we would move to a system where we have tariffs and border checks which will undoubtedly be disruptive. If we do want a deal, I think we should seek to minimise business disruption and its potential impact on jobs, by unnecessarily changing rules or processes more than once.

The leaders of the nations of the European Union have agreed to the withdrawal agreement and the more detailed political declaration. It is clearly in the best interests of both sides to do what we can to avoid using the backstop and even extending the transition period should not be necessary as we have already significant progress on the principles for a future trade deal. This continues to be the key document on which we must now put our full efforts. This deal will mean we take back control of our borders, our laws and our money while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of the United Kingdom.

We have already agreed the future deal will include the end of freedom of movement, the end of the European Court of Justice having jurisdiction, the freedom to negotiate our own trade deals with other countries around the world, zero tariffs in a free trade area for goods, the UK as an independent coastal state on fisheries and no longer part of the Common Fisheries or Agricultural Policies. Meanwhile, we have already committed as a government to uphold standards on rights for workers, the environment and EU citizens. This future deal will deliver the referendum outcome AND our own domestic priorities.

I will continue to support the Prime Minister, Theresa May, who is handling one of the most challenging and complex negotiations any PM has had to face. Her leadership and resilience are key to securing that comprehensive future trade deal