Theresa May has reacted to calls for clarity on Brexit by confirming she will look to trigger Article 50 by March 2017, firing the starting pistol for the UK to leave the EU. In a speech to the Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister announced she will include a Great Repeal Bill in the next Queen’s Speech, which will formally repeal the 1972 European Communities Act and EU legislation in the UK. Mrs May also revealed that the Bill will be the full extent of Parliament’s involvement in Brexit negotiations, rather than giving MPs the chance to vote on the terms of withdrawal.
The Prime Minister’s speech, unusually given on the first day of conference, alluded to what many had thought throughout the referendum campaign – namely that she personally favoured Brexit, suggesting that those arguing Article 50 should be invoked following parliamentary agreement “[are not] trying to get Brexit right, they’re trying to kill it by delaying it.”
Importantly, Mrs May repeatedly emphasised that the Government has a ‘plan’ in her speech, following accusations her ministers have so far lacked direction in negotiations. The Prime Minister also insinuated she is looking for the UK to leave the Single Market; affirming that the country is not leaving the EU “only to give up control of immigration again” or “only to return to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.”
The speech from the Prime Minister has received mixed reaction, with further questions raised as to how the likes of the City and the NHS will be affected. Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, welcomed the clarity on the timing of the UK’s withdrawal, but suggested the Prime Minister had prompted a raft of other questions about how the UK will approach the negotiations. Mrs May also appears to be following a course to ensure the UK’s withdrawal from the EU a year before the next General Election.