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  • THERESA MAY: It’s good to be here in this great city of Florence today at a critical

  • time in the evolution of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

  • It was here, more than anywhere else, that the Renaissance began – a period of history

  • that inspired centuries of creativity and critical thought across our continent and

  • which in many ways defined what it meant to be European.

  • A period of history whose example shaped the modern world. A period of history that teaches

  • us that when we come together in a spirit of ambition and innovation, we have it within

  • ourselves to do great things.

  • That shows us that if we open our minds to new thinking and new possibilities, we can

  • forge a better, brighter future for all our peoples.

  • And that is what I want to focus on today. For we are moving through a new and critical

  • period in the history of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.

  • The British people have decided to leave the EU; and to be a global, free-trading nation,

  • able to chart our own way in the world.

  • For many, this is an exciting time, full of promise; for others it is a worrying one.

  • I look ahead with optimism, believing that if we use this moment to change not just our

  • relationship with Europe, but also the way we do things at home, this will be a defining

  • moment in the history of our nation.

  • And it is an exciting time for many in Europe too. The European Union is beginning a new

  • chapter in the story of its development. Just last week, President Juncker set out his ambitions

  • for the future of the European Union.

  • There is a vibrant debate going on about the shape of the EU’s institutions and the direction

  • of the Union in the years ahead. We don’t want to stand in the way of that.

  • Indeed, we want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU, and the UK thrive side

  • by side.

  • Shared challenges And that partnership is important. For as

  • we look ahead, we see shared challenges and opportunities in common.

  • Here in Italy today, our two countries are working together to tackle some of the greatest

  • challenges of our time; challenges where all too often geography has put Italy on the frontline.

  • As I speak, Britain’s Royal Navy, National Crime Agency and Border Force are working

  • alongside their Italian partners to save lives in the Mediterranean and crack down on the

  • evil traffickers who are exploiting desperate men, women and children who seek a better

  • life.

  • Our two countries are also working together in the fight against terrorismfrom our

  • positions at the forefront of the international coalition against Daesh to our work to disrupt

  • the networks terrorist groups use to finance their operations and recruit to their ranks.

  • And earlier this week, I was delighted that Prime Minister Gentiloni was able to join

  • President Macron and myself in convening the first ever UN summit of government and industry

  • to move further and faster in preventing terrorist use of the Internet.

  • Mass migration and terrorism are but two examples of the challenges to our shared European interests

  • and values that we can only solve in partnership.

  • The weakening growth of global trade; the loss of popular support for the forces of

  • liberalism and free trade that is driving moves towards protectionism; the threat of

  • climate change depleting and degrading the planet we leave for future generations; and

  • most recently, the outrageous proliferation of nuclear weapons by North Korea with a threat

  • to use them.

  • Here on our own continent, we see territorial aggression to the east; and from the South

  • threats from instability and civil war; terrorism, crime and other challenges which respect no

  • borders.

  • The only way for us to respond to this vast array of challenges is for likeminded nations

  • and peoples to come together and defend the international order that we have worked so

  • hard to createand the values of liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law

  • by which we stand.

  • Britain has alwaysand will alwaysstand with its friends and allies in defence of

  • these values.

  • Our decision to leave the European Union is in no way a repudiation of this longstanding

  • commitment. We may be leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.

  • Our resolve to draw on the full weight of our military, intelligence, diplomatic and

  • development resources to lead international action, with our partners, on the issues that

  • affect the security and prosperity of our peoples is unchanged.

  • Our commitment to the defence - and indeed the advance - of our shared values is undimmed.

  • Our determination to defend the stability, security and prosperity of our European neighbours

  • and friends remains steadfast.

  • The decision of the British people And we will do all this as a sovereign nation

  • in which the British people are in control.

  • Their decision to leave the institution of the European Union was an expression of that

  • desire - a statement about how they want their democracy to work.

  • They want more direct control of decisions that affect their daily lives; and that means

  • those decisions being made in Britain by people directly accountable to them.

  • The strength of feeling that the British people have about this need for control and the direct

  • accountability of their politicians is one reason why, throughout its membership, the

  • United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union.

  • And perhaps because of our history and geography, the European Union never felt to us like an

  • integral part of our national story in the way it does to so many elsewhere in Europe.

  • It is a matter of choices. The profound pooling of sovereignty that is a crucial feature of

  • the European Union permits unprecedentedly deep cooperation, which brings benefits.

  • But it also means that when countries are in the minority they must sometimes accept

  • decisions they do not want, even affecting domestic matters with no market implications

  • beyond their borders. And when such decisions are taken, they can be very hard to change.

  • So the British electorate made a choice. They chose the power of domestic democratic control

  • over pooling that control, strengthening the role of the UK Parliament and the devolved

  • Scottish Parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies in deciding our laws.

  • That is our choice. It does not mean we are no longer a proud member of the family of

  • European nations. And it does not mean we are turning our back on Europe; or worse that

  • we do not wish the EU to succeed. The success of the EU is profoundly in our national interest

  • and that of the wider world.

  • But having made this choice, the question now is whether wethe leaders of Britain,

  • and of the EU’s Member States and institutionscan demonstrate that creativity, that

  • innovation, that ambition that we need to shape a new partnership to the benefit of

  • all our people.

  • I believe we must. And I believe we can.

  • For while the UK’s departure from the EU is inevitably a difficult process, it is in

  • all of our interests for our negotiations to succeed. If we were to fail, or be divided,

  • the only beneficiaries would be those who reject our values and oppose our interests.

  • So I believe we share a profound sense of responsibility to make this change work smoothly

  • and sensibly, not just for people today but for the next generation who will inherit the

  • world we leave them.

  • The eyes of the world are on us, but if we can be imaginative and creative about the

  • way we establish this new relationship, if we can proceed on the basis of trust in each

  • other, I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom

  • and for the European Union.

  • Negotiations In my speech at Lancaster House earlier this

  • year, I set out the UK’s negotiating objectives.

  • Those still stand today. Since that speech and the triggering of Article 50 in March,

  • the UK has published 14 papers to address the current issues in the talks and set out

  • the building blocks of the relationship we would like to see with the EU, both as we

  • leave, and into the future.

  • We have now conducted three rounds of negotiations. And while, at times, these negotiations have

  • been tough, it is clear that, thanks to the professionalism and diligence of David Davis

  • and Michel Barnier, we have made concrete progress on many important issues.

  • For example, we have recognised from the outset there are unique issues to consider when it

  • comes to Northern Ireland.

  • The UK government, the Irish government and the EU as a whole have been clear that through

  • the process of our withdrawal we will protect progress made in Northern Ireland over recent

  • yearsand the lives and livelihoods that depend on this progress.

  • As part of this, we and the EU have committed to protecting the Belfast Agreement and the

  • Common Travel Area and, looking ahead, we have both stated explicitly that we will not

  • accept any physical infrastructure at the border.

  • We owe it to the people of Northern Irelandand indeed to everyone on the island of

  • Ireland - to see through these commitments.

  • We have also made significant progress on how we look after European nationals living

  • in the UK and British nationals living in the 27 Member States of the EU.

  • I know this whole process has been a cause of great worry and anxiety for them and their

  • loved ones.

  • But I want to repeat to the 600,000 Italians in the UKand indeed to all EU citizens

  • who have made their lives in our countrythat we want you to stay; we value you; and we

  • thank you for your contribution to our national lifeand it has been, and remains, one

  • of my first goals in this negotiation to ensure that you can carry on living your lives as

  • before.

  • I am clear that the guarantee I am giving on your rights is real. And I doubt anyone

  • with real experience of the UK would doubt the independence of our courts or of the rigour

  • with which they will uphold people’s legal rights.

  • But I know there are concerns that over time the rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK

  • citizens overseas will diverge. I want to incorporate our agreement fully into UK law

  • and make sure the UK courts can refer directly to it.

  • Where there is uncertainty around underlying EU law, I want the UK courts to be able to

  • take into account the judgments of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent

  • interpretation. On this basis, I hope our teams can reach firm agreement quickly.

  • Shared future At the moment, the negotiations are focused

  • on the arrangements for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. But we need to move on to talk

  • about our future relationship.

  • Of course, we recognise that we can’t leave the EU and have everything stay the same.

  • Life for us will be different.

  • But what we do wantand what we hope that you, our European friends, want toois

  • to stay as partners who carry on working together for our mutual benefit.

  • In short, we want to work hand in hand with the European Union, rather than as part of

  • the European Union.

  • That is why in my speech at Lancaster House I said that the United Kingdom would seek

  • to secure a new, deep and special partnership with the European Union.

  • And this should span both a new economic relationship and a new relationship on security.

  • So let me set out what each of these relationships could look likebefore turning to the

  • question of how we get there.

  • Economic partnership Let me start with the economic partnership.

  • The United Kingdom is leaving the European Union. We will no longer be members of its

  • single market or its customs union. For we understand that the single market’s four

  • freedoms are indivisible for our European friends.

  • We recognise that the single market is built on a balance of rights and obligations. And

  • we do not pretend that you can have all the benefits of membership of the single market

  • without its obligations.

  • So our task is to find a new framework that allows for a close economic partnership but

  • holds those rights and obligations in a new and different balance.

  • But as we work out together how to do so, we do not start with a blank sheet of paper,

  • like other external partners negotiating a free trade deal from scratch have done.

  • In fact, we start from an unprecedented position. For we have the same rules and regulations

  • as the EU - and our EU Withdrawal Bill will ensure they are carried over into our domestic

  • law at the moment we leave the EU.

  • So the question for us now in building a new economic partnership is not how we bring our

  • rules and regulations closer together, but what we do when one of us wants to make changes.

  • One way of approaching this question is to put forward a stark and unimaginative choice

  • between two models: either something based on European Economic Area membership; or a

  • traditional Free Trade Agreement, such as that the EU has recently negotiated with Canada.

  • I don’t believe either of these options would be best for the UK or best for the European

  • Union.

  • European Economic Area membership would mean the UK having to adopt at home - automatically

  • and in their entirety - new EU rules. Rules over which, in future, we will have little

  • influence and no vote.

  • Such a loss of democratic control could not work for the British people. I fear it would

  • inevitably lead to friction and then a damaging re-opening of the nature of our relationship

  • in the near future: the very last thing that anyone on either side of the Channel wants.

  • As for a Canadian style free trade agreement, we should recognise that this is the most

  • advanced free trade agreement the EU has yet concluded and a breakthrough in trade between

  • Canada and the EU.

  • But compared with what exists between Britain and the EU today, it would nevertheless represent

  • such a restriction on our mutual market access that it would benefit neither of our economies.

  • Not only that, it would start from the false premise that there is no pre-existing regulatory

  • relationship between us. And precedent suggests that it could take years to negotiate.

  • We can do so much better than this.

  • As I said at Lancaster House, let us not seek merely to adopt a model already enjoyed by

  • other countries. Instead let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious

  • economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of

  • the British people.

  • I believe there are good reasons for this level of optimism and ambition.

  • First of all, the UK is the EU’s largest trading partner, one of the largest economies

  • in the world, and a market of considerable importance for many businesses and jobs across

  • the continent. And the EU is our largest trading partner, so it is in all our interests to

  • find a creative solution.

  • The European Union has shown in the past that creative arrangements can be agreed in other

  • areas. For example, it has developed a diverse array of arrangements with neighbouring countries

  • outside the EU, both in economic relations and in justice and home affairs.

  • Furthermore, we share the same set of fundamental beliefs; a belief in free trade, rigorous

  • and fair competition, strong consumer rights, and that trying to beat other countries

  • industries by unfairly subsidising one’s own is a serious mistake.

  • So there is no need to impose tariffs where we have none now, and I don’t think anyone

  • sensible is contemplating this.

  • And as we have set out in a future partnership paper, when it comes to trade in goods, we

  • will do everything we can to avoid friction at the border. But of course the regulatory

  • issues are crucial.

  • We share a commitment to high regulatory standards.

  • People in Britain do not want shoddy goods, shoddy services, a poor environment or exploitative

  • working practices and I can never imagine them thinking those things to be acceptable.

  • The government I lead is committed not only to protecting high standards, but strengthening

  • them.

  • So I am optimistic about what we can achieve by finding a creative solution to a new economic

  • relationship that can support prosperity for all our peoples.

  • Now in any trading relationship, both sides have to agree on a set of rules which govern

  • how each side behaves.

  • So we will need to discuss with our European partners new ways of managing our interdependence

  • and our differences, in the context of our shared values.

  • There will be areas of policy and regulation which are outside the scope of our trade and

  • economic relations where this should be straightforward.

  • There will be areas which do affect our economic relations where we and our European friends

  • may have different goals; or where we share the same goals but want to achieve them through

  • different means.

  • And there will be areas where we want to achieve the same goals in the same ways, because it