With a year to go until Brexit, we are closer to a deal than ever before

With a year to go until Brexit, we are closer to a deal than ever before

We are one year away from a moment that will go down in history. March 29th 2019 will be the day on which, after decades of membership, several years of consternation, and many months of negotiation we finally leave the European Union.

With a year to go, I want to reflect on what we have achieved so far, and on the incredible opportunities that are coming over the horizon.

We have come a long way since triggering Article 50. Undeterred by our critics, we showed the world we were committed to delivering the vote of that historic referendum, and that we had a clear vision for our life outside the Union, articulated by the Prime Minister at Lancaster House, Florence, Munich and earlier this month at the Mansion House.

Over the past year we have published 14 papers, explaining the shape we want our future partnership with the EU to take from security to customs, foreign policy decisions to scientific collaboration.

We have introduced the most significant piece of legislation to ever pass through Parliament: the EU Withdrawal Bill, which ensures our statute book is fit for purpose on the day we leave.

And we got stuck into the talks in Brussels, making real progress with our EU partners on the issues that matter to people right across Europe.

Those negotiations are of course still ongoing, but our achievements so far should give us confidence in our direction of travel.

Having said from the outset that we would put citizens first, we have secured the rights of the million Brits living in the EU and the three million EU citizens living in the UK — meaning that they can look to their futures with confidence, knowing they can carry on living their lives as they do now.

We have also agreed that there will be a strictly time-limited implementation period, giving businesses and public services right across Europe time to prepare for the UK’s exit.

This is a hugely significant step as the period will act as a bridge to our future partnership with the EU, allowing businesses across Europe to make plans on the basis of knowledge about what our new partnership will look like.

As well as providing continuity and certainty, this period will also bring new opportunities for Britain.

For the first time in 40 years, we will be able to step out into the world and negotiate, ratify and sign our own trade deals with countries around the globe.

Halfway through the Article 50 process, there is still work to be done. My team is continuing to work hard to turn the Joint Report from December into legally binding text, including on Northern Ireland where we must ensure there is no return to a hard border, while respecting the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom.

We also want to start talking about our future partnership on both security and trade with the EU as soon as possible.

On security, we have set out a plan for an ambitious partnership on foreign policy and defence collaboration. Our driving principle will be ensuring that the safety of citizens across the continent is upheld. Because Europe’s security is our security.

On trade, we will look to agree a bespoke new trading agreement with minimal new restrictions to trade in goods and services; an agreement that sees both the UK and EU continue to uphold the free-trade principles we have long championed.

If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that though there will inevitably be bumps in the road ahead, there is always a way through.

In fact, this year has made me more of a determined optimist than ever before.

Critics doubted that we would reach agreement on phase one by December — we did.

And critics doubted we would reach agreement on an Implementation Period by March — we have.

We are closer to a deal than ever before. An agreement that delivers on the democratic decision of the British people: to enjoy control over our borders, our money and our laws.

One that works for people and businesses up and down our United Kingdom — and makes a success of Brexit.