Reaction as Theresa May announces freedom of movement will continue during Brexit transition

Theresa May claims that Britain has never felt 'at home' in the EU during Florence speechITN

Prime Minister Theresa May has attempted to bring clarity on Brexit plans to both British and EU citizens, politicians and businesses as part of a landmark speech in Florence.

She called for a "creative and practical" economic partnership that would benefit both Britain and Europe as well as a new security relationship to help tackle the growing threat of terrorism.

While details on the economy were scant, the prime minister called for a new treaty on security and criminal justice.

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Reacting to the speech, MPs were mixed, with some praising the clarity that the prime minister was providing, while others criticised her for giving few concrete details on key issues such as the economy.

Labour MP Stella Creasy said: "Ah. Transitional period for EU deal. AKA asking for 'extra time' in the exam... but if you don't have answer for questions asked."

While the Conservative MP Greg Hands said: "PM right to say that we can't cherry pick what parts of the EU we want. EU has been clear on that: "Keine Rosinenpickerei (no cherrypicking)."

Other MPs pointed out that the speech had affected the value of the pound.


But the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson praised the speech, days after penning a major article for the Telegraph.


Nigel Farage reacted angrily to the speech suggesting that the announcement was unnecessarily prolonging Britain's departure from the EU

The former Ukip leader said: "What she said was that we are going to leave the European Union but we are going to do it in name only, that it's my (Theresa May) intention that trade should continue as it is, our security arrangements should continue as they are, our science arrangements should continue as they are.

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"In fact she made it pretty clear that she doesn't really want to leave at all and she just wants to carry on with the status quo to simply be rebadged, as far as the transition period is concerned.

"Let's be clear, we didn't vote for a transition period. We voted to leave and it's now going to be a minimum of five years before we leave the EU and I wouldn't be surprised if we get to 2021 and this woman is still in charge and and be told that we need two or three more years."

The chief negotiator for the EU, Michel Barnier welcomed the speech saying: "In her speech in Florence, Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed a constructive spirit which is also the spirit of the European Union during this unique negotiation.

"The speech shows a willingness to move forward, as time is of the essence. We need to reach an agreement by autumn 2018 on the conditions of the United Kingdom's orderly withdrawal from the European Union.

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"Today, for the first time, the United Kingdom government has requested to continue to benefit from access to the Single Market, on current terms, and to continue to benefit from existing cooperation in security. This is for a limited period of up to two years, beyond its withdrawal date, and therefore beyond its departure from the EU institutions."

What did Theresa May reveal?

Speaking inside the Catholic church of Santa Maria Novella in the heart of Florence, May reiterated the continuing need for a relationship between Europe and Britain, underlining the fact that the country was "leaving the European Union but we are not leaving Europe."

Under the slogan "Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future", Theresa May spoke about what would be a "defining moment" in the history of Britain and its relationship with Europe.

She also confirmed that the UK will continue with its obligations meaning that policies such as freedom of movement would continue during the transition period.

However, all citizens from the EU wishing to come to the UK would have to register to live and work in Britain.

Migration and terrorism was a topic she raised that could, "only be solved in partnership" and that "our determination to defend the prosperity and stability of our European friends remains steadfast."

Despite this friendship the prime minister said that, perhaps down to geographic reasons, "the United Kingdom has never felt totally at home in the European Union" and that the process of leaving, which has been met with continuing deadlocks in Westminster and Brussels, would be "difficult."

She made it clear though that she wanted to work "hand in hand" with the EU to create a new economic and security partnership, one that was different to EEA members such as Norway or non-European nations such as Canada.

Speaking about the controversial transitional period, May said that the "UK and the EU would benefit from a period to adjust to the new arrangements in a smooth and orderly way."

She was able to confirm that the period would keep all existing rules and regulations, a time length of around two years.

Mixed political reaction

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