Theresa May has finally given us an achievable and realistic vision of post-Brexit Britain

Theresa May has finally given us an achievable and realistic vision of post-Brexit Britain

For the first time since her victory in last summer’s Conservative Party leadership election, Theresa May last week gave a definitive account of what Britain will look like post-Brexit. Far from the apocalyptic predictions of Remoaners or the transcendental visions of the most strident Brexiteers, the intended reality set out by the Prime Minister on Tuesday was realistic and achievable, but not without controversy.

After months of assumption and suggestion, she finally stated the position that some had feared: there was no place for the United Kingdom in the EU single market, nor the customs union. As her narrative progressed, those whispered murmurings of so-called “Hard Brexit” evolved into hysterical cries. For some of the 48% who voted to Remain, the statement that Mrs May saw Brexit and the continuation of our involvement in existing EU structures as mutually exclusive will be left feeling particularly abandoned.

Within Mrs May’s speech, credence was given to one of the central arguments of the Leave campaign: that of judicial and legislative sovereignty being returned to the United Kingdom. The claim that ‘we will not have truly left the EU if we are not in control of our own laws’ rings true of the ardent patriotism that many Leavers feel was the most legitimate reason for challenging our relationship with the EU. Having laws that all citizens of the United Kingdom are subject to, without the suggestion of a higher power in Brussels, must be seen as way of increasing the respect that each and every person has for the law of the land and, by extension, each other.

Despite such conciliatory phrases such as ‘we are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe’, the overarching tone of Mrs May’s intentions for the Brexit process cannot be denied: the United Kingdom will not be begging on the doorstep of Brussels during these negotiations. The PM will be seeking open and honest trade deals in the best interests of the UK, with relationships that will last for generations. It is not about fleecing our European friends and allies, it is about securing trade deals, regulatory frameworks and basic relationships in our mutual interest.

Indeed, by the end of Mrs May’s speech, the pound had risen by almost 2% against the dollar, supporting the theory that strong leadership provides the foundation of a strong currency. The importance of a stable and respected currency as we head into the negotiations cannot be understated and domestic markets will appreciate the direct correlation between an understanding of Britain’s Brexit plans and support for British success. However, this is not enough promise for those who fear our worst days still lie ahead.

Beyond the basics of her speech, was Theresa May’s emphasis that the decisions made by her government would have a definitive impact on future generations of this nation. Her desire that the ‘legacy of our time’ be remembered as one of creating a United Kingdom that was fairer, more tolerant and economically stronger than the one inherited from her predecessors is noble. It is also one shared by the majority who wish to heal the country of the wounds opened and deepened by the antagonistic claws of radical Brexit discourse.

By drawing her oration to a close with the wistful ‘they will judge us not only by the decision that we made, but by what we made of that decision’, Theresa May charged us all with the mantle of making Brexit a success. She urged us to not be defined by whether we were a Leaver or a Remainer, but rather to set aside these fleeting identities in favour of deciding whether to be optimists or pessimists.

The pessimists (and no doubt there will be a few) will argue that decline is the only outcome for the United Kingdom without the tugboat of the EU to keep us on track. Optimists, on the other hand, will think of the opportunities presented by the chance to create new trading relationships, fairer laws and a more equal society. Without the EU tugboat winching us in, who knows what seas the United Kingdom might be free to traverse?

This forward-looking momentum is the core of Theresa May’s Brexit strategy, yet only time will tell if it has the potential to achieve a truly ‘Global Britain’.