DEBATE: Was Theresa May’s speech in Florence a positive start to unlocking the Brexit talks?

British Prime Minister Delivers Landmark Brexit Speech
May talked about transition, but do we know what we are transitioning to? (Source: Getty)

Was Theresa May’s speech in Florence a positive start to unlocking the Brexit talks?

Alex Deane, a Conservative commentator, says YES.

The Prime Minister’s optimism and positivity in Florence could hardly have been a better next step in the Brexit process.

She emphasised our enduring, ongoing links with our friends in Europe – we’re leaving a relatively new, limiting, political project built around a protectionist customs union, not a continent – while giving needed clarity on basic issues such as the Single (or internal) Market and the Customs Union (out and out respectively, and quite right too).

Our future lies in a global free market trading with the world, taking advantage of our historic and cultural links with friends in many countries, who speak our language and practise our broad traditions and rule of law, while maintaining strong links with our neighbours. That’s exactly what the PM said, and exactly what we should want.

Much rests on our excellent negotiating team, for whom we should now all offer full throated support. In the meantime, well done Theresa May.

Read more: Here's how eight business groups reacted to Theresa May's Brexit speech

James McGrory, co-executive director of Open Britain and former chief campaign spokesman of Britain Stronger In Europe, says NO.

It might have been a good start if Theresa May had given it a year ago, but it is highly doubtful that this waffling, vague speech will do enough to deliver the progress in negotiations that our country needs.

Now 15 months since the referendum, May’s speech was long on warm words, but unforgivably short on specifics. There is still no consensus in the cabinet, let alone the country, about Britain’s long term relationship with the EU. May talks about transition, without any idea what we are transitioning to. Pushing the cliff edge back by two years does not improve the view at the brink.

There was absolutely no evidence that the government will deliver on any of the pledges made by Leave campaigners. Instead, the speech was littered with broken Brexit promises – on everything from trade to sovereignty to immigration.

The promised gains are not going to materialise and the pain inflicted could be significant. The public should keep an open mind about whether Brexit will be worth it.

Read more: Theresa May proposes a transition period during Brexit speech in Florence

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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