Prime Minister Theresa May has a reputation for choosing her words carefully on Brexit, using phrases such as “Brexit means Brexit”, making “a success of it” and getting “the best deal” to describe preparations for leaving the European Union.
But a closer look at her speeches suggests her position on some aspects of Brexit has evolved since she took office in the aftermath of the June referendum when Britain voted to leave the bloc, sending sterling to a 31-year low against the U.S. dollar.
Here are some key excerpts from the official government website at www.gov.uk:
July 20, meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin: “Well, it’s very clear to me that one of the messages that the British people gave in their vote that the UK should leave the European Union was that they wanted to see control brought into the movement of people from the European Union into the United Kingdom.”
“But I’m also clear that we want to get the right deal in trade in goods and services for the UK. I think that’s important for us. I think actually it’s important for other countries in the European Union who are trading with the UK as well, that we do that.”
July 21, meeting French President Francois Hollande: “Well, the message that the British people gave in their vote for the UK to leave the EU also had a very clear message that we should introduce some controls to the movement of individuals from the countries in the European Union into the UK. And obviously looking at that issue will be part of the negotiations.
“I’m clear that the government should deliver and will deliver on that for the British people, but we also want to get the right deal on the trade in goods and services. And I think this is important economically not just for the United Kingdom, but for other countries within the European Union as well.”
July 27, meeting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi: “We had a very clear message from the British people in the Brexit vote, that they want us to bring in some control on free movement; they don’t want free movement rules for movement of people from the European Union member states into the UK to operate as they have done in the past. And we will deliver on that.”
“But on the other side, we do of course need to ensure that we get the best possible deal in relation to trade in goods and services. And I’m looking at this with an open mind. I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union; not at opting necessarily a model that’s on the shelf already, but saying: what is going to work for the UK and what is going to work best for the European Union; in ensuring that we can maintain that economic relationship which has been of benefit to us in the past, and we want to ensure that we can continue and build on in the future.”
Sept 4, press conference with U.S. President Barack Obama: “We are both strong supporters of free trade, and today we’ve discussed how to take forward consultations to ensure that the UK and US have the strongest possible trading relationship. And this reinforces my belief that as we forge a new global role for the UK, we can and will seize the opportunities that Brexit presents and make a success of it.”
Sept. 27, reported telephone call with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel: “The prime minister explained that as we conducted the negotiations, it would be a priority to allow British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services, but we would also need to ensure we had more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe.”
Oct. 2, Conservative Party conference: “I know some people ask about the ‘trade-off’ between controlling immigration and trading with Europe. But that is the wrong way of looking at things. We have voted to leave the European Union and become a fully-independent, sovereign country. We will do what independent, sovereign countries do. We will decide for ourselves how we control immigration. And we will be free to pass our own laws.”
“But we will seek the best deal possible as we negotiate a new agreement with the European Union … I want it to involve free trade, in goods and services. I want it to give British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate in the Single Market – and let European businesses do the same here.”
Oct. 21, European Council: “No. I haven’t said anything that differs at all from what we said previously, because we’ve got a very clear position on this, which is that we want to have the best possible deal for trading goods and services with – and operation within – the single European market.
“Now, as I have also said, I think we need to look at this in a new way, which is saying what we will be doing is, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, it will be having a different relationship with the EU from the relationship that it has as a member of the European Union. And so what we will be doing is negotiating that new relationship with the EU.”
Oct. 27, first statement on Nissan investment: “It is a recognition that the government is committed to creating and supporting the right conditions for the automotive industry so it continues to grow — now and in the future. This vote of confidence shows Britain is open for business and that we remain an outward-looking, world-leading nation.”
July 13, her first speech as prime minister: “As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold new positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.”
Sept. 7; statement to the House of Commons after meeting of the G20: “And as I have said this is about getting the kind of deal that is ambitious and bold for Britain. It is not about the Norway model or the Swiss model or any other country’s model – it is about developing our own British model.”
Oct. 2, Conservative Party conference: “As ever with international talks, it will be a negotiation, it will require some give and take, and while there will always be pressure to give a running commentary on the state of the talks, it will not be in our best interests as a country to do that. But make no mistake: this is going to be a deal that works for Britain.”
Oct. 21, European Council: “I recognise the scale of the challenge ahead. I am sure there will be difficult moments. It will require some give and take.”
May has focused on boosting bilateral relationships with individual countries; emphasising partnerships and, especially with eastern European countries, stressing security cooperation.
July 20; meeting Merkel: “It (May’s first international visit) underlines my personal commitment to building a strong and constructive partnership between ourselves, Chancellor. A partnership that works for the benefit of people here in Germany and people back home in Britain too.”
July 21, meeting Hollande: “I am delighted to have this opportunity, so soon after taking office, to underline my commitment to the profound friendship between our countries and our peoples; a friendship that I believe has never been more important than it is today.”
July 28, meeting Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo: “I wanted to come here early on to tell you, Beata, and the people of Poland, that Britain attaches a huge importance to the relationship between our two countries … And it is a partnership that will endure long after the UK has left the European Union.”
July 28, meeting Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico: “So, it matters to both of us that we maintain the closest possible economic relationship once the UK has left the European Union.”
“And the UK will continue to stand up for our eastern allies. Earlier this month, we agreed to deploy UK troops as part of an increase in the number of NATO troops present along our eastern flank.”
Sept. 29, call to Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka: “They agreed that the UK and the Czech Republic enjoyed excellent bilateral relations and that the relationship would continue to go from strength to strength, particularly in defence and commercial areas.”
Oct. 11, meeting President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia: “Finally, they discussed the key regional role that Croatia can play in southeast Europe, and the importance of stabilising NATO’s southern flank” – said a statement released by May’s office.
May has not deviated from her message that she wants Britain to remain united as it leaves the European Union.
July 13, first speech as prime minister: “The full title of my party is the conservative and unionist party, and that word unionist is very important to me.”
July 15, before meeting Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon: “I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom – the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
July 18, before meeting First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones: “In my first statement as Prime Minister I made clear how strongly I believe in the Union. I want to say to the people of Wales that the government I lead will always be on your side – and that means I will stand up for you and your family against injustice and inequality.”
July 25, meeting First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Northern Ireland: “I stood on the steps of 10 Downing Street and said that my government will be a government for the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland is a valued part.”