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British PM May to set out 'Road to Brexit' in series of govt speeches

China Daily | Updated: 2018-02-12 15:43
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London, Feb 7, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - British Prime Minister Theresa May will make a speech on Brexit in the next three weeks, one of several planned addresses by senior ministers designed to set out the country's path to leaving the European Union, British media reported on Sunday.

Britain is hoping to seal a transition deal next month to smooth its exit from the EU, and agree on a long-term trade agreement later this year. However, Brussels said last week a transition deal was not a certainty and that London needed to clarify what it wanted from the EU.

May's government will aim to address that in a series of speeches dubbed by her office as "the road to Brexit" and due to be delivered by senior ministers and May in the next few weeks, the BBC reported.

Her speech will set out the security relationship Britain wants with the EU, while others will touch on workers' rights, trade and the devolution of power within Britain, the reports said. May's office was not immediately available for comment.

Foreign minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, will begin the series with a speech on Wednesday, with trade minister Liam Fox and Brexit minister David Davis among those also scheduled to speak, the BBC said.

Finance minister Philip Hammond, seen as the most pro-EU member of May's cabinet, will not give a speech.

Stark message

News of the speeches came after EU negotiator Michel Barnier on Friday warned Britain that a post-Brexit transition is "not a given", saying London had "substantial" objections to the EU's offer and that parts of it were not up for negotiation.

The EU negotiator's stark message, which weakened sterling, came after EU diplomats and officials warned in recent days that sticking points in the talks were threatening the whole Brexit schedule that the two sides had agreed on to provide certainty to business and citizens.

The Guardian newspaper described the day's events as a war of words between the two over Brexit transition claims. The rival Independent, in its take on a day of cross-channel disagreements, said relations between Britain and the EU had sunk to a new low as Davis and Barnier traded barbs.

Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary for the main opposition Labour Party, described Barnier's comments as a wakeup call for May.

Starmer said: "It's vital the government secures sensible transitional arrangements to prevent a cliff-edge for our economy. Yet with just a few weeks until the March deadline, it's clear the government is no closer to reaching an agreement."

Reuters - Xinhua

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