May’s Florence speech a ‘hopeful sign for pragmatism’

The speech in Florence on the issue of Brexit, delivered by UK Prime Minister Theresa May last Friday, was described as a “hopeful sign that pragmatism is starting to get the upper hand”.

This is according to the President of the ICSA (Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association) Patrick Kent.

“We now have an acceptance on the UK side that a transition period of about two years, during which the UK would stay in the single market, is the preferred option,” Kent noted.

“This is a much more pragmatic position than the extreme euro-sceptic position of some within the Tory (Conservative) Party, who wanted little or no transition and it suggests that the chances of a softer Brexit have increased.”

In addition, Kent welcomed the acceptance that the UK will have to make some financial contribution to the EU for a period.

“This offer will be well short of what the EU wants, but it gets us beyond the logjam of whether the UK was liable for anything into a negotiation over how much.

“It has always been clear that a transition period would be an essential element of moving towards a trading relationship where tariffs would not apply to exports between Europe and the UK.

Although there is still a lot of complexity and uncertainty around trade deals, the speech gives hope that there is much less likelihood of Irish exports to the UK being undermined between now and 2021.

“Moreover, Ms. May has been careful not to be too precise about the transition period and it is essential that flexibility to extend it further is kept in play,” he said.

Kent added that the re-election of a government in Germany led by Angela Merkel was also a positive outcome.

“Chancellor Merkel seems much more pragmatic than her opponent Martin Schulz of the SPD – who leans more towards the strand of opinion which prioritises making the UK suffer for leaving the EU.

The speech by Ms. May should be seen as an opportunity by the EU to make progress on Brexit talks.

“In particular, it should be seen as a sign of progress by EU heads of state at the EU summit meeting in October. The time for grandstanding is now past,” Kent concluded.