Florence May goes to heart of Europe for key speech
A speech by Theresa May billed as an important moment in the Brexit negotiation process is to take place in Florence next week, Downing Street has announced.
May will speak in the historic Italian city on 22 September “to update on Brexit negotiations so far”, the prime minister’s spokesman said.
“She will underline the government’s wish for a deep and special partnership with the European Union once the UK leaves the EU,” he said.
News of the planned address first emerged just over a week ago when Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament’s Brexit coordinator, said the next round of UK-EU talks on the subject would most likely be delayed as May planned to make an “important intervention” on the issue.
May’s spokesman gave no details of what the prime minister would be saying in the speech, and whether it would include any new information or proposals.
“The PM has said that she would provide updates on how the negotiations were going, and be engaged in an ongoing conversation with Europe, and that’s what she’s doing,” he said.
May will be travelling to Italy purely to make the speech, which is not tied in to any bilateral talks or conferences. The list of attendees has yet to be announced, but Downing Street has informed the office of the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, about the event.
May’s spokesman said the prime minister “wanted to give a speech on the UK’s future relationship with Europe in its historical heart”.
He said: “The UK has had deep cultural and economic ties spanning centuries with Florence, a city known for its historical trading power. As the UK leaves the EU we will retain those close ties. As the prime minister has said on many occasions, we are leaving the EU, not Europe.”
Under the guidance of the Medici dynasty, the then-city state of Florence was one of the most important trading centres of medieval Europe. Trade with England was a key part of the Florentine economy during this period.
The fourth formal round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels had been due to take place on 18 September, but it was announced on Tuesday that this had been delayed for a week.
May’s spokesman denied that the Florence speech was the reason, saying: “Both sides have settled on the date for the next round, after discussions between senior officials, in recognition that more time and consultation would give negotiations a flexibility to make further progress.”
The speech will be seen as May’s third big explanation of her plans for Brexit, beginning with her speech at Lancaster House in London in January, followed in March by a letter to the European council president, Donald Tusk, triggering article 50, the formal start of the Brexit process.
to see if her stance has softened following a sometimes tricky start to Brexit talks.
Theresa May’s spokesman said she wanted to give a speech on ‘the UK’s future relationship with Europe in its historical heart’