The Spectator

Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit, full transcript

Theresa May attacks Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit, full transcript
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Did you see the TV debate last night?  I have to say I thought Jeremy was an impressive performer and a tough adversary.  Well-prepared.  On top of his brief.  Knew the policy inside out.  Persistent to the last, he never gave up.  Yes, Jeremy Paxman definitely still has it. The strange thing about general election campaigns is that you don’t often get to see your opponent close up.  But last night, I did.  I saw Jeremy Corbyn close up on television and what I saw was revealing.

Despite being a Member of Parliament for 34 years, despite being the Leader of the Labour Party for the last two years, he’s simply not ready to govern – and not prepared to lead. He’s not prepared to use the nuclear deterrent. He’s not prepared to take action against terrorists. He’s not prepared to give the police the powers they need to keep us safe. He’s not prepared to take a single difficult decision for the good of our economy. He’s not prepared to answer questions about his long track record of supporting people who want to harm – and even attack – our country. And – with the Brexit negotiations due to begin only eleven days after polling day – he is not prepared for those negotiations.

But I am prepared. Prepared to take the difficult decisions that leadership demands. Prepared to do what is necessary to protect and defend our country. Prepared to go into the negotiating chamber with the European Union just eleven days after polling day. I am prepared.  I’m ready to go.  Jeremy Corbyn is not. Because last night confirmed that only one of us has the determination to deliver the will of the people and make Brexit happen – and only one of us has the plan to make Brexit a success.

Last night showed that Jeremy Corbyn’s minders can put him in a smart blue suit for an interview with Jeremy Paxman, but with his position on Brexit, he will find himself alone and naked in the negotiating chamber with the European Union. Now I know that’s an image that doesn’t bear thinking about.  But actually this is very serious.  We are approaching the end of a long campaign, but it is crucial that everybody remembers this important fact. 

Britain is about to enter into the most important negotiations of my lifetime.  They begin just eleven days after polling day.  And the European Union is already adopting an aggressive negotiating position. 

That’s why, now more than ever, Britain needs a strong government and a strong Prime Minister capable of standing up to Brussels.  Your vote is more important than ever.  Because every vote for me in this election will – if I’m returned as Prime Minister – strengthen my hand in the negotiations that are about to start. But if you don’t vote at this election – and if you don’t vote for me in this election – you risk sleepwalking into the very real danger that Jeremy Corbyn will find himself in the hotseat, in the negotiating chair, on your behalf.  I only have to lose six seats in this election for that to happen.  And the consequences for Britain, if that did happen, would be dire.

A weak and unstable Prime Minister, propped up by the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  A coalition of chaos, unable and unwilling to get the best deal for Britain.  Consisting of political parties who disagree with Brexit and want to unpick the referendum result. 

Don’t let them steal your votes in last year’s referendum.  Don’t let them make a mess of these negotiations.  Don’t sleepwalk into that danger. Because what last night’s television debate brought home in Technicolor was that only we have the will - and the plan - to make a success of Brexit.

But its important, too, to understand that the referendum was not just a vote to leave the European Union. It was also a vote to change the way the country works – and the people for whom it works – forever.

 It was a quiet revolution driven by all those who felt let down and left behind for too long. A revolution in which millions of our fellow citizens stood up and said they were not prepared to be ignored anymore.

That‘s why since the first day I stepped through the door of Number 10 as Prime Minister, I have been clear that the mission of the government I lead is not just to get the best deal for Britain in Europe, but to shift the balance in Britain in favour of ordinary working people here at home too. To fight for all those for whom life is more difficult than many seem to think or realise. Those who are just about managing to get by. People who are working around the clock, giving of their best, but for whom life is still too often a struggle. They don’t ask for much. They just want to get on with their lives and to be able to do their best for their children. Above all, they just want to be given a fair chance.

Because for too long – for too many people – life has not seemed fair. If you can’t afford to get onto the property ladder, or your child is stuck in a bad school…If you’re one of the ordinary working people who made huge sacrifices after the financial crash, but see no evidence that the people who are better off than you did the same… If you’re one of those people who lost their job, who stayed in work but on reduced hours, took a pay cut as household bills rocketed, or someone who finds themselves out of work or on lower wages because of low-skilled immigration…

Above all, if you‘ve been trying to say things need to change for years and your complaints fall on deaf ears… if your patriotism is deemed somehow distasteful, your concerns about immigration dismissed as parochial, your desire for your country to make the decisions that matter to Britain here in Britain ridiculed and ignored for too long… Life simply doesn’t seem fair. 

And that is why my plan for Britain does two things. It respects and responds to the British people’s decision to leave the European Union…And it aims to shape a brighter, fairer future for our country – a future in which everyone, in every part of this United Kingdom, will enjoy a fair share. 

It will back those who want to work hard, by helping businesses create more and better-paid jobs – with new rights and protections for workers. It will help more people have a home of their own by building more affordable houses, and tackle the cost of living by capping rip-off energy tariffs and keeping taxes low.

 My plan will make sure every child gets the best start in life by increasing school funding every year; provide real technical education for young people for the first time; and increase the NHS budget every year to ensure every family has the care they need, and we can pay for and provide care for the elderly.

And it will protect our national security and defences by fighting terrorism and taking effective action against extremists.     It is a plan to make Britain stronger, fairer and more prosperous – and to put government at the service of ordinary working people. So that if you have a job but don’t always have job security, we’ll be backing you…If you own your home but worry about paying the mortgage, we’ll be backing you… If you can just about manage but worry about the cost of living and getting your children into a good school, we’ll be backing you… If you just want to get on with your life, to do your best for your children, and be given a fair chance to get on, we will be backing you…Because the government I lead will be a government at the service of ordinary working people.

But all of this depends on one thing – getting Brexit right. And that is what is truly at the heart of this election campaign. That is the one, fundamental, defining issue – the choice upon which everything else we care about will depend.

Because the terms of the Brexit deal we negotiate with the EU, and the course we begin to chart in the years after it, truly will define our country for generations to come.

Our place in the world, our economic security, the vital public services upon which we all rely, our future prosperity – everything depends on, and will be defined by, the outcome of these next five years. If we don’t make a success of the next five years, our economic prosperity will suffer, jobs and livelihoods will be put at risk, and with them the security and peace of mind of working families. If we don’t make a success of Brexit, we won’t have the financial means to fund the public services on which we all rely.

Our National Health Service – the institution which is there for us at the most difficult times – needs us to make a success of Brexit to ensure we can afford to provide it with the resources it needs for the future. Every school in every village, town and city needs us to make a success of Brexit. If we want to continue to provide a sustainable welfare system, with help targeted at those who need it most – we need to make a success of Brexit. If we want to go on investing in transport infrastructure – our roads and bridges and railways – we need to make a success of Brexit.

If we want to continue to play our part on the world stage, standing up for our liberal values, with strong defences to protect us – we need to make a success of Brexit. Everything depends on getting Brexit right. So the central question in this election is: who has the will - and crucially the plan - to make a success of Brexit so that we can build the stronger, fairer, more prosperous Britain we want and need? And on that central question, I believe there is only one choice.

Because I am clear about the instruction I have been given, clear about what needs to be done, and ready to get on with the job on day one – while Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t have the belief, the will or the plan to deliver Brexit. And he doesn’t have the strength to do so either.

Because the only way he can get into Number 10 is by doing a deal with the Scottish Nationalists and the Liberal Democrats who do not believe in Brexit and do not want it to succeed.

We know this. And the rest of Europe knows it too. They also know that a weak government in a hung parliament here at home won’t be able to stand up for Britain in Europe. They know that a British Government that has to give in to other political parties all the time so that it can just hold onto power will be weak abroad because it will be compromised at home.

You don’t negotiate the right Brexit deal for Britain from a position of weakness. You do it from a position of strength: with a Prime Minister 100% committed to the cause, and a strong, majority government with a clear plan to see it through. And you can’t negotiate the right Brexit deal for Britain if you don’t have confidence in our strengths and in all that we have to offer either. You can only deliver for Britain if you believe in Britain.

And I do. And that is why I have been clear about my plan for Brexit at every stage. I said I would trigger Article 50 before the end of March, and I did. I said I would set out my negotiating objectives before I did so, and I have. I said we will take back control of our borders, our money and our laws – and we will.

And I have set out a clear and ambitious plan for the negotiations ahead. It is a plan for a new deep and special partnership between Britain and the European Union. A partnership of values and of interests. A partnership based on cooperation in areas such as security and economic affairs. And at the heart of that plan are 12 negotiating objectives that will guide us in the months ahead.

We will deliver certainty wherever possible so that everyone has as much clarity as we can provide as we move through the process. As part of that, we’ve published a White Paper confirming our plans to convert the ‘acquis’ into British law, so that everyone has the certainty they need. And at the same time, I have been clear that the government I lead will put the final deal that is agreed between the UK and the EU to a vote in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.

We will take control of our own laws and bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Britain. Leaving the European Union will mean that our laws will be made in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. And those laws will be interpreted by judges not in Luxembourg, but in courts across this country.

We will strengthen the Union of the four nations that comprise our United Kingdom. We will negotiate as one United Kingdom, taking into account the specific interests of every nation and region of the UK. And we expect the Devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to see a significant increase in their decision-making power at the end of the Brexit process.

We want to maintain the Common Travel Area with the Republic of Ireland, with no return to the borders of the past. We will control immigration so that we continue to attract the brightest and the best, but manage the process properly so that our immigration system serves the national interest.

We seek to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states as early as we can. I set that out very clearly in the letter I sent to President Tusk in March. But I am clear that this must be a reciprocal arrangement because it is my primary job as Prime Minister of this United Kingdom to protect the rights and interests of the people of this United Kingdom. We will ensure that workers’ rights are fully protected and maintained. Indeed, as I’ve made clear throughout this campaign, not only will the Government I lead protect the rights of workers, we will build on them.

We will pursue a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union that allows for the freest possible trade in goods and services between Britain and the EU’s member states; that gives British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets; and that lets European businesses do the same in Britain.

But we will not be members of the Single Market because that would mean accepting the ‘four freedoms’ that the European Union considers sacrosanct – including the free movement of people that means we would not be able to control our borders as the British people want. Membership of the Single Market is incompatible with the democratically expressed will of the British People, so our membership will end. But we will continue to pursue the freest possible trade in goods and services in the interests of both Britain and the EU. We‘re going to make sure that we can strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union too. Because important though our trade with the EU is and will remain, it is clear that the UK needs to increase significantly its trade with the fastest growing markets in the world.

We will continue to collaborate with our European partners in the areas of science, education, research and technology, so that the UK is one of the best places for science and innovation. We’ll continue to cooperate in important areas such as crime, terrorism and foreign affairs.

And – with a clear plan and strong leadership – we will deliver a smooth and orderly Brexit. Delivering the will of the British people while minimising disruption to our economic security. This is my plan for Brexit. Twelve objectives that amount to one big goal – a new deep and special partnership with the European Union that returns control to Britain and allows us to stand tall in the world once again. It is the clear and credible approach of a strong and stable government.

Just compare it to the alternative. Because the truth is that Jeremy Corbyn has no plan for Brexit at all. And when you think about it, that is incredible.Because the Brexit negotiations will begin just 11 days after the election. There will be no time to waste. No way of stalling. No way of asking Europe to hang on while we figure out what we want to do. The Europeans are ready to go, and are determined to fight for a deal that works for them. This is no time for a weak government and a weak leader to be making it up as they go along.

And particularly not when that leader has shown poor judgment and weak leadership throughout the process so far. Let’s remember that on the day the referendum result was declared, Jeremy Corbyn thought we should trigger Article 50 straight away. That reckless misjudgement would have immediately handed the Europeans the advantage in the negotiations and seriously curtailed the time we had to formulate our own negotiating position and objectives. It would have cost our country dear.

And let’s remember that, while my team and I have put in the work to develop a coherent plan over the last ten months, Jeremy Corbyn has lurched chaotically from half-baked plan to half-baked plan. He has had seven different Brexit plans in the space of nine months – none of which added up to a coherent vision for our country.

And let’s remember that, on the central issue – what kind of relationship the United Kingdom should have with the Single Market – Jeremy Corbyn still cannot say for certain where he stands. He says he wants to keep all the benefits of the single market, but without saying how that will be achieved, or how it fits with ending the free movement of people. And let’s remember what we do know about his approach.

With negotiations due to begin just 11 days after the election, the first thing Jeremy Corbyn would do is ‘scrap’ the plan for Brexit we set out in our white paper and start all over again, leaving the UK naked in the negotiating chamber. With negotiations about to begin, the next thing he would do is ‘drop’ our Great Repeal Bill that offers the certainty the country needs. Yet he has no plan to replace it. And with the negotiations about to start, his priority would be to reject ‘no deal’ as an option for Britain. The consequences of that are very simple. It means being willing to accept any deal, however bad; signing up to any bill, however vast; accepting any terms, however unreasonable.

It means signing up to Britain being governed by EU laws and EU courts for years to come so that we have no control over our laws…To free movement continuing indefinitely so that we have no control over our borders…And to paying whatever Europe wants us to pay, so we have no control over our money either. As always with Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, the shambles and responsibility would be theirs – but the consequences and the bill would be ours. So the prospect of him and his political associates leading our country into the Brexit negotiations should worry us all. And that’s why a vote for Labour, the Liberal Democrats or the Nationalists in this election is too big a risk to take.

Because in an age of shock election results – and with the minor parties queuing up to do a deal with Jeremy Corbyn in return for their support – that risk is Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister in a hung parliament in just 10 days’ time. And if that were to happen then – just as we need to be at our strongest – our Government would be in chaos, Jeremy Corbyn would be in Number 10, John McDonnell would be in the Treasury, and Diane Abbott would be in the Home Office. And just as we should be negotiating a deal for Britain in Europe, Jeremy Corbyn would be stitching up a deal with Nicola Sturgeon and the Liberal Democrats – a deal that means they would be pulling the strings.     

 So just eleven days after polling day the Brexit negotiations will begin. Only yesterday, the European Commission showed the importance of the choice you face about who you send into those talks. They‘re adopting an aggressive negotiating position, which can only be met by strong leadership on behalf of Britain. Jeremy Corbyn’s in no position to provide it. He has no plan to deliver Brexit, and has already admitted he would give control of our borders and our laws back to Brussels.  Yet if I lose just six seats, Jeremy Corbyn could become Prime Minister at the head of a coalition of chaos, with the parties still arguing among themselves rather than negotiating for Britain when the Brexit negotiations begin just those eleven days after polling day.

So as we get back to focusing on the task in hand and turn towards the home strait in this campaign, this is the time to choose. If you don’t want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister of this country, if you don’t believe he is equipped to negotiate Brexit, keep our economy strong or our nation secure, there’s no safe way to vote Labour – wherever you live.

There’s only one party in this election that respects the people’s decision and is passionate about delivering on it. One party that can provide the strong, majority government the country needs to see Brexit through.

Every vote for me and my local candidates in this election will strengthen my hand when I negotiate for Britain in Europe.

 Every vote for me and my local candidates will be a vote for five years of strong and stable leadership to see us through Brexit and beyond. Every vote for me and my local candidates will be a vote for strong and stable leadership in the national interest. Leadership that’s ready to get the right deal for Britain abroad and a better deal for ordinary working people here at home. Leadership that’s ready to make the most of the opportunity ahead: to build a stronger, fairer, better Britain. Thank you.