“Brexit isn’t just a process, it’s an opportunity, it’s an important moment for us because it’s an opportunity for us to change this country for the better,” the U.K. prime minister told supporters hoping for a landslide victory in the general election on June 8.
Exactly one year earlier, she was singing a rather different tune. On April 25, 2016, May made her only major intervention in the EU referendum campaign, at a speech at the Institute of Mechanical Engineers. She gave a measured, but firm, endorsement of the Britain’s membership of the European Union.
To mark what a difference a year makes — and to invite musings on May’s private thinking on Brexit — here are key extracts from the speech she made a year ago.
On post-Brexit trade:
“We export more to Ireland than we do to China, almost twice as much to Belgium as we do to India, and nearly three times as much to Sweden as we do to Brazil. It is not realistic to think we could just replace European trade with these new markets.”
On the chances of a good trade deal with EU, and how to get there:
“Some say we would strike deals that are the same as the EU’s agreements with Norway, Switzerland or even Canada. But with all due respect to those countries, we are a bigger and more powerful nation than all three. Perhaps that means we could strike a better deal than they have. After all, Germany will still want to sell us their cars and the French will still want to sell us their wine. But in a stand-off between Britain and the EU, 44 percent of our exports is more important to us than 8 percent of the EU’s exports is to them.
“The reality is that we do not know on what terms we would have access to the single market. We do know that in a negotiation we would need to make concessions in order to access it, and those concessions could well be about accepting EU regulations, over which we would have no say, making financial contributions, just as we do now, accepting free movement rules, just as we do now, or quite possibly all three combined. It is not clear why other EU member states would give Britain a better deal than they themselves enjoy.”
On keeping Britain safe:
“My judgment, as home secretary, is that remaining a member of the European Union means we will be more secure from crime and terrorism.”
On Brexit’s impact on the union:
“I do not want the people of Scotland to think that English Euroskeptics put their dislike of Brussels ahead of our bond with Edinburgh and Glasgow. I do not want the European Union to cause the destruction of an older and much more precious union, the union between England and Scotland.”
On Brexit’s consequences for relations with the US:
“The Americans would respond to Brexit by finding a new strategic partner inside the European Union, a partner on matters of trade, diplomacy, security and defence, and our relationship with the United States would inevitably change as a result. That would not, I believe, be in our national interest.”
“Remaining inside the European Union does make us more secure, it does make us more prosperous and it does make us more influential beyond our shores.
“I do not want to stand here and insult people’s intelligence by claiming that everything about the EU is perfect, that membership of the EU is wholly good, nor do I believe those that say the sky will fall in if we vote to leave. The reality is that there are costs and benefits of our membership and, looking to the years and decades ahead, there are risks and opportunities too … But on balance, and given the tests I set earlier in my speech, I believe the case to remain a member of the European Union is strong.”
Author: Charlie Cooper