The decision we took on the 23rd June was a great moment in history. Not just a historic opportunity for our country but for Europe as a whole. Perhaps the biggest moment since the Berlin Wall came down. We are not leaving any of our historic ties with our European friends, We are choosing freedom away from the stifling EU institutions. Through NATO we remain bound through the 1949 treaty to come to the defence of Europe’s democracies if they are attacked. The nations and peoples of Europe remain our close friends, staunch allies and key trading partners. I believe, however, that our vote to leave the EU will be a positive wake up call for those European elites who have been far too complacent about:
– Youth unemployment that is wrecking lives in S Europe
– The declining share of world trade that threatens Europe’s progress, and
– The failure of the Brussels machine to respond to globalisation
Because of our decision on June 23, we are no longer bound to that EU model. We will have our freedom back.
Today I want to talk first about our future place in Europe, second about building a greater Britain and then, third, about why I am the best choice to lead our country forward. I want to start with the result of the referendum and the clear choice of the British people. The result is final. It must be respected and I will respect it. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. Freedom of movement will end and the British parliament will decide how many people enter our country each year to live, work and contribute to our national life. Billions of pounds more will be invested in the NHS from the savings we make from cancelling our EU membership fee. The laws and regulations that govern the British people will be made in Britain – and not Brussels. And at elections the British people will be able to appoint or sack politicians, secure in the knowledge that EU bureaucracy cannot undermine their wishes. I intend to keep the negotiations as short as possible. Neither we nor our European friends need prolonged uncertainty and not everything needs to be negotiated before Article 50 is triggered and the exit process is concluded. My team will set out trade, border and security agreements – our renegotiation will be in the hands of a dedicated Cabinet colleague. I emphasise ‘dedicated’. The team that I will assemble to lead Britain out of the EU will consult opposition politicians, business people, farmers, trades unions and trade negotiators. I will closely consult with colleagues from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved parliaments, as well as here in Westminster, to make the most of the huge opportunity that lies ahead. I will do everything in my power to keep the United Kingdom United.
And this brings me on to my second of three themes for today. The next prime minister must bring the nation together. The EU referendum didn’t cause divisions but it certainly did reveal them. Many people are shocked at the result but they really shouldn’t be. What I would like to say to them is please: Don’t be afraid; We haven’t lost our senses; We haven’t stopped caring about each other; We haven’t stopped loving our families and children; We haven’t stopped loving our country either; We’ve just rediscovered our Freedom!
It’s very obvious that many fellow citizens are unhappy with the way the economy works for them. So it won’t be enough to protect the working people of this country by just reducing the flow of low-skilled labour – although that is necessary. When there is room for tax cuts they must be focused on the low-paid. The importance of wealth and job creation is core to all my beliefs but the richest people of Britain should know that they will not be my priority. Britain will make her way in the world by investing in the skills of her people – not by expecting them to adopt unacceptable conditions. And those people who have become rich by winning boardroom pay rises that bear no relation to company performance should be aware that I find this unacceptable. Too few people in my old field of financial services were ever brought to book for their part in the 2008 crash.
I’ll continue to build on the good work that George Osborne has done in reducing the deficit. We have to get our house in order. The Chancellor’s sound northern powerhouse project needs to be supercharged, and I won’t forget that Sunderland was one of the first to make very clear, last Friday morning, the desire for change. I will appoint a key minister for housing and try my hardest to keep him or her in the job for the rest of the parliament. I want a minister who thinks of nothing other than how to use a bigger housing budget to deliver on the aspirations of the working people of this country. As well as spending more on roads, railways and broadband I’ll make rapid decisions on airport expansion. Business needs certainty. I will prioritise new trade deals with the fastest growing parts of the world, a simpler tax system, and an immigration policy focused on bringing the most talented people to our country. Workers’ rights under my leadership will be protected and enhanced, as my friend Gisela Stuart MP and I made clear during the referendum debates. The national living wage, the apprenticeship levy and Michael Gove’s important pupil premium will all be safe under my watch. And I commit today to immediately guaranteeing the rights of our EU friends who have already come here to live and work. We must give them certainty – they will not be bargaining chips in our negotiations.
Finally, why me? It was a big decision to put myself forward to lead our country. One that was driven by my absolute conviction that our future, and that of our children and grandchildren, will be so much better outside the EU. But my real passion in politics is my desire for social justice – for a transformation of our society. For nearly two decades I’ve been chairing and founding new charities to support the earliest years of life. There is no doubt that the period from conception to the age of two is critical…it is during this period that the lifelong emotional capacity of a human being is largely set up. Being able to learn, being able to make friendships, to hold down a job, to have a sense of self-worth. These sound very basic, but for too many in our country these things are elusive. And there’s a financial angle to this. The choice our country faces is simple: We spend more on early intervention or we spend much more later on picking up the pieces of lives that struggled at school, struggled in work, and all too often found themselves without hope. I am certain we can change that, and my absolute commitments it to the emotional health of our nation.
So, what else have I done? I’ve been in business for 25 years, running businesses large and small and working in charities. I know from long experience how our economy works. I know how to strike a deal in a tough negotiation. I know, as a woman, how to succeed in a man’s world and how to fight the unfortunate prejudice that many working mums experience. I’ve sat on the Treasury select committee. I’ve been City minister and Energy minister. I set up and led the Fresh Start Project with the support of over a hundred MPs. Together we oversaw the biggest ever investigation into EU laws that any parliamentary group has ever undertaken. Through that Group, I am better prepared for the coming negotiations than anyone else. I know I can do the job. I know I can seize the great opportunities for the UK in leaving the EU, and I am confident I can do it in a way that reaches out to those who didn’t vote for it. I know I can deliver more fairness for people who have struggled to make their way. Finally, I want to make an appeal to the country. Our democracy is the oldest in the world. We are the mother of all parliaments. We have led the world in human rights. Let’s show the world that we can disagree. We can disagree strongly, but let’s also show them that we treat each other with respect. I believe this nation can become the greatest on earth. Our future is not written until we, the people, write it. As your prime minister my ambition will be to guide our country to the sunlit uplands – a future for our children and grandchildren of aspiration, tolerance and hope.