Rolling coverage of Theresa May’s speech in Florence on Brexit, with reaction and analysis
This is what the Press Association has filed about Santa Maria Novella, the church in Florence that is reportedly the venue for Theresa May’s speech.
Theresa May’s crunch speech on Brexit has been billed as Britain’s bid to break open deadlocked exit talks which have so far frustrated both sides.
So the grand, Gothic, Santa Maria Novella church in central Florence appears a fitting venue to attempt to heal divides which appear to have deepened since the beginning of tough negotiations in summer.
Theresa May has given two big speeches on Brexit since she became prime minister. The first, to the Conservative party conference in October last year, signalled that she was heading for a “hard” Brexit and crashed the pound. The second, at Lancaster House in January, outlined 12 Brexit negotiating objectives. It confirmed that May was considering a transition period (or “implementation” period, as she called it), but also said that the UK wanted to leave the single market and the customs union while keeping “tariff-free trade” with the EU that would be “as frictionless as possible”. Critics claims that this still amounted to a Johnsonian desire to “have one’s cake and eat it”.
Since then the government has provided very little further clarity about what it wants, either in regard to the transition or to the UK’s ultimate post-Brexit relationship with the EU. Ultimately the UK probably faces a choice between cleaving quite close to the EU, in regulatory terms, or striking out alone. Or “high access, low control” versus “low access, high control”, in Brexit jargon. May has not opted decisively for one or the other.
I’m told negotiator EU Michel Barnier is likely to respond within 15 minutes of Theresa May making her big EU speech in Florence tomorrow