May’s last stand: 4 things to expect from UK PM’s make-or-break Brexit speech
Six months into Brexit negotiations, which will set out the details of Britain’s break from the bloc, both sides are in deadlock.
On Friday afternoon, May is expected to address four pressing issues, in a speech which could either sink or save Brexit entirely.
The PM has everything to lose as she leads a fractured Tory party and a divided nation into the historical split.
How exactly is she going to do it?
1. Brexit bill
Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier has made his position clear. There will be no further talks until Britain agrees to pay for its exit.
Extortionate figures have been banded around, from €40 billion to €60 billion for the UK’s commitments up until 2020. Hardline Brexiteers have warned May the country “owes nothing.”
However, May is prepared to blink. She is set to back away from the Leavers and offer around €20 billion, insiders say.
The offer will cover Britain’s commitments until 2020 and has the potential to keep both sides of her fractured cabinet happy.
2. Transitional deal
May wants a transitional deal – a period of up to two years, following March 2019.
This multispeed idea, allowing a slow and steady break up so Britain’s economy does not hurtle out of the union all at once, is what May will call “imaginative.”
It will also involve access to the single market – and free movement of people until 2021.
“The eyes of the world are on us,” May will tell a church packed with Italian business leaders.
“But if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship."
However, the PM will really be addressing the eyes that are not in the room – the 27 EU leaders and the EU Commission.
3. United message
The speech will determine the future – of both negotiations and May’s career.
The cabinet has put on a united front, just days after Foreign Secretary and leadership rival Boris Johnson released his takeover manifesto, under the guise of his vision for Brexit.
Senior Tories have their daggers out for the PM. Failing now and tanking talks would almost certainly trigger a leadership contest.
“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,” May will say.
That includes millions of people living miles from home – with no guarantee for the future.
In what is clearly the most emotive issue in the divorce, EU citizens living in Britain, and their counterparts across the bloc, want reassurance.
As does the business community – facing a black hole left by returning staff.
May is expected to hint at Britain’s stance and offer further assurance to those living in Britain, in order to receive a return offer for UK citizens abroad.
“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,” May will insist.
The PM is calling for talks to be remembered “not for the differences we faced, but for the vision we showed.”