Everything you need to know about Theresa May's Brexit speech

Everything you need to know about Theresa May's Brexit speech

Prime Minister Theresa May delivered her most substantive speech on the Government’s Brexit strategy since taking power six months ago.

What did the PM announce?

May clarified the Government stance on Brexit, saying the UK will leave the single market, and that she was prepared to quit the EU without a deal, rather than accept a “bad” one.

The PM said both Houses of Parliament would have a vote on any final deal done with Brussels, as she signalled the Government could take Britain out of the Customs Union.


May again stated that Britain would take back control of immigration and no longer be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after leaving the EU.

What would happen if Parliament rejected a deal?

May left it unclear whether such a vote would mean the UK staying in the EU, or leaving without a trade agreement in place.

What tone did the PM strike?

Friendly, but threatening. May stressed that the UK wanted to remain on close terms with the EU after Brexit, but warned of the consequences if the EU tried to “punish” Britain as an example to other countries.

Theresa May
May speaking today at Lancaster House (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)

“I know there are some voices calling for a punitive deal that punishes Britain and discourages other countries from taking the same path. That would be an act of calamitous self-harm for the countries of Europe,” May said, as she implied the UK could retaliate by under-cutting EU tax rates to attract investment.

How did the money markets react?

They were glad some clarity had finally been brought to the Government position, and responded well with the pound soaring more than 2% to over 1.23 US dollars, after it had slumped below 1.20 in recent days. Much of the surge appeared to come after May said MPs and peers will be given the final say on any Brexit deal. The UK currency was also up 1.5% against the euro at 1.152.

How did Europe take it?

Not very well. President of the European Council Donald Tusk tweeted: “Sad process, surrealistic times but at least more realistic announcement on #Brexit. EU27 united and ready to negotiate after Art. 50.”

One German MEP accused May of “bluntly making fun of her electorate”. Jan Philipp Albrecht, a Green MEP for northern Germany, tweeted: “#May: Go f*** yourself EU but please don’t let us down. *whine* *whine*”

Kathleen Van Brempt, a Belgian socialist, tweeted: “The European Union is not a menu where the #UK can freely pick and choose to their liking. #Brexit.”

Swedish Moderate MEP Christofer Fjellner wrote: “UK leaving the single market will come at a large cost. Negotiating new free trade deals with others to compensate won’t be any easy task!”

What happens next?

May returning to 10 Downing Street after her speech
Article 50 will probably be triggered by the end of March (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The Supreme Court is set to announce its ruling on whether the PM or Parliament has the final say on triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty which formally starts the two-year withdrawal negotiations with the EU.

May has stated she intends to invoke Article 50 by the end of March.