Theresa May’s speech to the Confederation of British Industry on 19 November 2018.
Thank you very much. It is a pleasure to be back with the CBI again. Let me start by thanking Carolyn for your leadership of the CBI as Director General. And also welcome John Allan, who has taken up his role as President since I last addressed you. I know John from his time on the Home Office Supervisory Board and I know he will make a fantastic contribution as President. There is one paramount issue facing our country at the moment, and I know it is the number one concern of the CBI, so let me get right to it.
Last week the Cabinet agreed the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. We also agreed a draft outline of the political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. Both documents were the result of many hours of negotiation between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Together they represent a decisive breakthrough – but they are not the final deal. We now have an intense week of negotiations ahead of us in the run-up to the special European Council on Sunday. During that time I expect us to hammer out the full and final details of the framework that will underpin our future relationship and I am confident that we can strike a deal at the council that I can take back to the House of Commons. The core elements of that deal are already in place.
The Withdrawal Agreement has been agreed in full, subject of course to final agreement being reached on the future framework. That Agreement is a good one for the UK. It fulfils the wishes of the British people as expressed in the 2016 referendum. I have always had a very clear sense of the outcomes I wanted to deliver for people in these negotiations. Control over our borders, by bringing an end to free movement, once and for all. Control of our money, so we can decide for ourselves how to spend it, and can do so on priorities like the NHS. Control of our laws, by ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the United Kingdom and ensuring that our laws are made and enforced here in this country. Getting us out of those EU programmes that do not work in our interests, like the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy. And that is exactly what we are going to deliver.
Let me say a little more about the first of those items – getting back full control of our borders – because I know that is an issue of great importance to the British people. The United Kingdom is a country that values the contribution that immigration has made to our society and economy over many years. And in the future, outside the EU, immigration will continue to make a positive contribution to our national life. But the difference will be this: once we have left the EU, we will be fully in control of who comes here. It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi. Instead of a system based on where a person is from, we will have one that is built around the talents and skills a person has to offer. Not only will this deliver on the verdict of the referendum. It should lead to greater opportunity for young people in this country to access training and skilled employment.