British Prime Minister Theresa May recently gave a speech in Italy to address details of the impending Brexit. Talks have stalled while the March 2019 deadline remains firm. During a trip to Florence, Prime Minister May hoped to discuss topics like Britain’s exit fee and civil rights that would be retained after separating from the European Union.
A Long Process
Though “Brexit” became a top buzzword for 2016, efforts to separate Britain from the EU have stalled since the election last June. EU officials say that Britain is giving them “mixed signals and weak proposals.” They agreed on the importance of setting an amount Britain must pay when they leave, but officials also wanted a clearer update on the Ireland-Northern Ireland border May’s speech aimed to get the ball rolling again while reassuring members who still have their doubts. The speech took place before the next stage of negotiations in Brussels, which would follow soon after.
While the speech was light on specific details, May expressed her respect for the EU and their shared values. Commonality was a big theme as she stood in front of a backdrop that read “Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future.”
She also encouraged members to help Brexit go “smoothly and sensibly.” Then she proposed that the terms Britain’s future relationship with the EU should be different from Canada’s free-trade deal and Norway’s single market membership. Her alternative involved a “creative” and “practical” compromise between both parties. She strongly supports the two-year transition period away from the EU an upholding their commitment to paying an exit fee.
May’s speech didn’t satisfy the majority of the EU. She didn’t suggest a solution for the Irish border. Additionally, since Brexit fee proposals are reportedly in the 100 million euros ($120 million) range, she said “some of the claims made on this issue are exaggerated and unhelpful.” On the other hand she assured EU members “that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave.”
Progress is also hindered by division within her own government. Some desire a “hard Brexit,” meaning they want to cut all ties, while others want a softer break and longer transition.
Even though the EU said it would take a miracle for Brexit talks to move forward, some advancement has been made. The talks in Brussels were more positive as a result of May’s speech. The Prime Minister also had a productive meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Still, the EU insists that the three main issues must be settled at the summit scheduled for late October – Britain’s departure fee, rights for EU citizens in Britain, and the Northern Ireland border.