19.05 Day 0, outside 10 Downing Street.
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I have a brief prepared statement and then I will have time for some questions.
This evening, as you’ve just heard, Theresa May has announced her intention to step down as the leader of the Conservative Party, with immediate effect. In the interim period, as first secretary of State, I have been asked by Her Majesty to form an administration to carry out the duties of the Government, and it goes without saying that it is my great honour and with a sense of enormous duty that I have agreed to do so.
The coming weeks will see an attempt by various parties to undermine the position of the UK government in delivering the UK’s departure from the European Union. They will argue that by sending obstructionist anti-EU candidates to the European Parliament that people in this country can send a message to Europe. In my view, the message that would send would be simple chaos.
We have decided to leave the EU and that is the job of this government – and we will deliver on it. No member of the European Parliament sent to obstruct its work and antagonise its members will do any good for the UK. If we are to be good friends and partners when we leave the EU, we need to show it at these elections. And no member of the European Parliament will play any role in negotiating anything for the future. Protest votes are for people who feel small and insignificant – protest votes of this sort aren’t an answer to a problem faced by the fifth largest economy on the planet.
We will leave the EU within a number of weeks – and I have a number of announcements to make in this regard.
The government will tomorrow form an ad-hoc committee of the House of Commons to work through a series of objective plans to agree proposals for legislative and technological solutions to the issue of trade between the UK and Ireland across the sea and land borders. The government will agree to formally support proposals likely to gain the support of the majority of the House and formally propose these to the EU negotiating team and the Government of Ireland.
In the mean time, the UK government will propose a three-year period of technological and trade policy alignment relating solely to trade originating with or terminating in Ireland in order to stabilise that trade and present options to the delivery of seamless tariff free trade on goods into and out of the UK. This will mean the conferring of no formal special status on Northern Ireland, nor additional border checks on the Irish Sea or at the border with the Republic of Ireland. We will propose new extradition and cross-border protocols for offences relating to trade between our islands.
In order to bolster the activities relating to this effort, I will tomorrow announce the names of two additional junior ministers to the Northern Ireland Office whose focus will be entirely with developing arrangements for those trade and legal protocols.
At the Department of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, a new position focusing on European relationships will be named in due course.
In order to facilitate filling these positions, it will be necessary to alter the configuration of government departments. It is my intention to undertake that realignment in the next few days, in any case by the end of Thursday. It is my intention, and I believe you should expect me to fill those positions, and to fill this government as a cabinet of all the talents. These are challenging times, where people of good will from across Parliament should if they are so called make themselves available to meet the needs of the nation.
I will be inviting our friend and colleague, an Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to a meeting later this week. My objective at that meeting is extremely simple, and it has wider implications than just to our closest neighbour, Ireland. We want to affirm our friendship and explain our thinking.
In conclusion, the UK decided to leave the EU, but we British are European by our very nature and we are not in the business of abandoning our friends. Just as surely as we will leave the EU, we will aim to build again the bridges of friendship and mutuality that have marked our foreign policy for decades.
Just as surely as we will honour the decision of the British people, democratically demonstrated in the referendum of 2016, so in 2019 we will leave the EU and set our own course in the UK national interest. The history books won’t look kindly on the last three years, but we have an opportunity, as free and freely associating countries, to write the book of the future. It will be, as it should be, a story of the UK standing independently, proud to be a friend and ally to nations sharing our ideals of peace and democracy.