UK Politics

Theresa May's Conservative conference speech: Key quotes

Prime Minister Theresa May takes to the stage to deliver a speech about Brexit Image copyright Getty Images

Theresa May has delivered her first speech to the Conservative Party conference since becoming UK prime minister.

It centred largely on how Brexit would work and what leaving the European Union would mean for the country. Here are some key quotes from her speech:


On the UK voting to leave the EU

"Even now, some politicians - democratically-elected politicians - say that the referendum isn't valid, that we need to have a second vote.

"Others say they don't like the result, and they'll challenge any attempt to leave the European Union through the courts.

"But come on. The referendum result was clear. It was legitimate. It was the biggest vote for change this country has ever known. Brexit means Brexit - and we're going to make a success of it."


On keeping the country informed

"We will not be able to give a running commentary or a blow-by-blow account of the negotiations, because we all know that isn't how they work.

"But history is littered with negotiations that failed when the interlocutors predicted the outcome in detail and in advance.

"Every stray word and every hyped up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain, so we have to stay patient.

"But when there are things to say - as there are today - we will keep the public informed and up to date."


On waiting to trigger Article 50

"There was a good reason why I said - immediately after the referendum - that we should not invoke Article 50 before the end of this year.

"That decision means we have the time to develop our negotiating strategy and avoid setting the clock ticking until our objectives are clear and agreed.

"And it has also meant that we have given some certainty to businesses and investors. Consumer confidence has remained steady. Foreign investment in Britain has continued. Employment is at a record high, and wages are on the up.

"There is still some uncertainty, but the sky has not fallen in, as some predicted it would - our economy remains strong."


On the timing of triggering Article 50

"There will be no unnecessary delays in invoking Article 50. We will invoke it when we are ready. And we will be ready soon. We will invoke Article 50 no later than the end of March next year."


On Parliament's role

"It is not up to the House of Commons to invoke Article 50, and it is not up to the House of Lords. It is up to the government to trigger Article 50 and the government alone.

"Those people who argue that Article 50 can only be triggered after agreement in both Houses of Parliament are not standing up for democracy, they're trying to subvert it.

"They're not trying to get Brexit right, they're trying to kill it by delaying it. They are insulting the intelligence of the British people."


On Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

"Because we voted in the referendum as one United Kingdom, we will negotiate as one United Kingdom, and we will leave the European Union as one United Kingdom.

"There is no opt-out from Brexit. And I will never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious union between the four nations of our United Kingdom."


On repealing the 1972 European Communities Act

"Our laws will be made not in Brussels but in Westminster. The judges interpreting those laws will sit not in Luxembourg but in courts in this country. The authority of EU law in Britain will end."


On workers' rights

"Existing workers' legal rights will continue to be guaranteed in law - and they will be guaranteed as long as I am prime minister.

"We're going to see workers' rights not eroded, and not just protected, but enhanced under this government."


On Britain after Brexit

"We are going to be a fully independent, sovereign country - a country that is no longer part of a political union with supranational institutions that can override national parliaments and courts.

"And that means we are going, once more, to have the freedom to make our own decisions on a whole host of different matters, from how we label our food to the way in which we choose to control immigration."


On the new relationship with the EU

"The process we are about to begin is not about negotiating all of our sovereignty away again.

"It is not going to be about any of those matters over which the country has just voted to regain control.

"It is not, therefore, a negotiation to establish a relationship anything like the one we have had for the last 40 years or more.

"So it is not going to be a 'Norway model'. It's not going to be a 'Switzerland model'. It is going to be an agreement between an independent, sovereign United Kingdom and the European Union."


On immigration

"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."


On the single market

"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."


On Britain's future

"A truly global Britain is possible, and it is in sight. And it should be no surprise that it is because we are the fifth biggest economy in the world.

"Since 2010 we have grown faster than any economy in the G7. And we attract a fifth of all foreign investment in the EU.

"We are the biggest foreign investor in the US. We have more Nobel Laureates than any country outside America. We have the best intelligence services in the world, a military that can project its power around the globe, and friendships, partnerships and alliances in every continent.

"We have the greatest soft power in the world - we sit in exactly the right time zone for global trade and our language is the language of the world.

"We don't need - as I sometimes hear people say - to 'punch above our weight'. Because our weight is substantial enough already."


What others had to say...

Image copyright Reuters

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson used his conference speech to outline how the UK would be "liberated" by leaving the European Union. Here are some of his key quotes:

On the referendum result

"I know that not everyone will agree with this, but what the hell - I believe that vote on 23 June was for economic freedom and political freedom as well."


On leaving the EU

"I have to tell any lingering gloomadon-poppers that never once have I felt that this country would be in any way disadvantaged by extricating ourselves from the EU treaties.

"And indeed there are some ways in which we will be liberated to be more active on the world stage than ever before because we are not leaving [the continent of] Europe.

"We will remain committed to all kinds of European co-operation - at an intergovernmental level, whether it is maintaining sanctions against Russia for what is happening in Ukraine or sending our navy to help the Italians stem the migrant flow through the central Mediterranean.

"But we will also be able to speak up more powerfully with our own distinctive voice leading the world as we now are, in imposing a ban on ivory helping to save the elephant in a way that the disunited EU is unable to do."


Brexit Secretary David Davis hailed Brexit as a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Britain to forge its new place in the world" in his speech to Conservative Party members. Here are a few of the key lines:

Image copyright AFP

On EU citizens staying in the UK

"When it comes to the negotiations, we will protect the rights of EU citizens here, so long as Britons in Europe are treated the same way - something I am absolutely sure we will be able to agree.

"To those who peddle hate and division towards people who have made Britain their home, let the message go out from this hall, we say 'you have no place in our society'."


On immigration

"The clear message from the referendum is this - we must be able to control immigration.

"Did you hear [Labour leader] Mr Corbyn last week, telling us all there's no need for any limit on numbers? Have you ever heard a political party quite so out of touch with its own voters?

"Let us be clear, we will control our own borders and we will bring the numbers down."


On trading relations with the EU

"History shows that the easier it is for us to do business together, the better it is for both Britain and Europe.

"We're looking at all the options. We'll be prepared for any outcome. But it certainly won't be to anyone's benefit to see an increase in barriers to trade, in either direction.

"So, we want to maintain the freest possible trade between us, without betraying the instruction we have received from the British people to take back control of our own affairs."

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