Excitement and Worry Are Right Ingredients for Grown-Up Split
Britain and Italy’s Relationship Will Remain Strong
The Prime Minister addressed delegates in Florence with a promise — that the UK and the EU would part as friends and stay friends.
Anyone who has broken one kind of relationship and had hoped of replacing it with another will know how difficult that is — but for some it does work.
She went on to talk about opening our minds to new thinking and new possibilities for a shared brighter future for everyone. The reality is that, to achieve it, everyone has to commit, and commit at the same level.
Mrs May talked about exciting times and the worries that follow — but isn’t that the way of the world? Excitement energises and encourages us to look for and embrace opportunity. Worry is what stops fools rushing in. Its enthusiasm’s natural seatbelt so we should welcome a worry or two as we sit down and buckle up for the ride.
Britain and Italy have enjoyed a cordial relationship and mutually beneficial business exchanges for longer than anyone can remember. We have to invest time and effort to make sure that those solid foundations are preserved and extended.
Mrs May went on to express a desire for the EU and the UK to thrive side-by-side. Her view is that BREXIT may be the dissolution of a partnership — but the process has every chance of leaving behind a viable relationship nonetheless.
While in Italy she spoke about how the two countries are working together to tackle shared challenges — Britain’s Royal Navy, National Crime Agency and Border Force working alongside their Italian partners stop traffickers’ exploitation of immigrants and a shared fight against terrorism.
The Prime Minister is right to point to some of the most fundamentally important areas where partner-working is paramount. Working together here, and in commerce, makes us stronger, keeps us better informed and provides a holistic view of issues that affect both countries.
Mass migration and terrorism cannot be handled in silos. Walking away from partnership in these areas is to condemn ourselves to failure across the most sensitive and imperative human challenges.
A storm is brewing and rolling around the world. Another mass execution by a rogue gunman in America saw people mown down while they watched a music festival in Las Vegas, shoppers and café patrons were killed as they enjoyed the sunshine in Barcelona. Climate change hasn’t gone away and North Korea’s nuclear programme rages onward.
It’s clear that acting together is important. The UK and Italy will stand together, as will the other countries of Europe, against challenges presented by people and planet, because together is the only way.
Mrs May recapped on the decision to leave the European Union by reminding us that the UK is not leaving Europe.
The UK remains a family member, it’s just moved house. It still has shared values and a willingness to pool resource in defence of the family’s security, but it is also as some of the freedoms that come only after a move away from the home you’ve known for the last few decades.
I would echo the PM’s view that our defence of the stability, security and prosperity of Britain’s European neighbours and friends will remain — it would be foolish to turn our backs.
Remain voters wanted more control over the decisions that affect their daily lives. Britain is an island nation and has never fully got its feet under the table with Europe — but it does want to be at that table.
So now it’s down to Britain to stand apart yet remain inclusive. Something British and Italian people share is a love of innovation and a wealth of creativity. Both nations will be keen to explore fully what the next few years bring as the post-Brexit dust settles.
Three rounds of negotiations are complete and progress on many important issues is emerging.
I was particularly pleased to hear Mrs May reference significant progress on how the UK will look after European nationals living here and British nationals living in the 27 Member States of the EU and also her acknowledgement of the worry and anxiety that has surrounded uncertainty around their status.
She went on with an emphatic pledge to the 600,000 Italians in the UK — and indeed to all EU citizens who have made their lives in the country — that Britain wants them to stay, that they’re valued and that Britain is grateful for their contribution. In addition to the business savvy and their contribution to the economy the Italian community in the UK has also been keen to bring and share its rich culture, from food and wine to art, a particular passion of mine. The welcome will remain, and that’s a good step for everyone.
So the partnership isn’t over, the family isn’t irrevocably split and much that was good will remain — in Theresa May’s view for a properly executed Brexit.
With that in mind, what we should be focusing our thoughts on is how to ensure that what remains are the gains for the UK and the members of the family it is closest to.
Britain has EU rules and regulations enshrined in its legislation. Some we will want to change as we grow into this new entity.
Mrs May urges us to be creative as well as practical in designing ambitious economic partnerships which respect the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people — and I believe she’s right.
Things that won’t change are the UK’s belief in free trade, fair competition and consumer rights. One commitment close to my heart is the allegiance to high regulatory standards, and, within my own business, we stand for being better than the minimum and driving up quality and standards.
Relations with countries outside the EU will be developed in new ways, but the UK, Italy and other countries within the EU will want to trade with each other — and there is no reason why this can’t happen.
With four decades of infrastructure to pick through, things will take time to evolve. It will take time to put in place the new immigration system required to re-take control of the UK’s borders.
Mrs May’s assertion that during the implementation period, people will continue to be able to come and live and work in the UK; but with a registration system seems a sensible step.
As the country moves forwards, the UK will also want to continue working together with EU countries to promote long-term economic development.
As she summed up Mrs May said that the UK’s fundamentals were strong: a legal system respected around the world; a keen openness to foreign investment; an enthusiasm for innovation; an ease of doing business; some of the best universities and researchers to be found anywhere; an exceptional national talent for creativity and an indomitable spirit.
My view? She could just as easily be talking about Italy.