May: The UK’s ‘best days lie ahead of us’

Britain’s best days “really do lie ahead of us”, Theresa May has said in comments ahead of a key speech about Brexit.

The Prime Minister will hold a special Cabinet meeting on Thursday ahead of her speech in the North East the day after.

It comes after she held a “war Cabinet” meeting at her country residence Chequers to work out forthcoming Brexit negotiations strategy.

Mrs May said: “On Thursday, I told the Cabinet committee at Chequers that the deal we negotiate with the EU must present an ambitious future for our great country.

“Next week I will present the committee’s conclusions to an additional session of the full Cabinet before travelling to the North East on Friday to give a speech setting out this Government’s vision of what our future economic partnership with the European Union should look like.

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“Delivering the best Brexit is about our national future, part of the way we improve the lives of people all over the country.

“So I concluded the meeting by reminding the committee that the decisions we make now will shape this country for a generation.

“If we get them right, Brexit will be the beginning of a bright new chapter in our national story, and our best days really do lie ahead of us.”

It comes as Minister for the Cabinet Office David Lidington, effectively Mrs May’s number two, said the SNP represents a danger to trade agreements.

He told The Sunday Telegraph the Scottish nationalists’ demands for a series of powers currently held by Brussels risked causing serious damage to the country’s ability to strike deals.

Ministers fear that differences in Scottish, Welsh and English standards, in areas such as food safety and chemicals, could prevent them arranging agreements on behalf of the whole country.

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Mr Lidington said: “We could choose to leave as a country split and an economy disjointed, struggling to make our way in a new world outside the EU.

“Or we can come together as one United Kingdom, confidently seizing new global opportunities as we build a prosperous, secure nation fit for the future challenges we will face.”

The UK Government has said it will pursue a policy of putting Britain outside a customs union with the EU but matching Brussels rules in certain sectors in an attempt to achieve “frictionless” trade.

Donald Tusk, who on Saturday claimed Mrs May’s Brexit plan was “based on pure illusion”, will meet the Prime Minister in No 10 for talks on Thursday lunchtime.

At a news conference on Friday, Mr Tusk said: “It looks like the cake philosophy is still alive. From the very start it has been a key principle of the EU 27 that there can be no cherry-picking and no single market a la carte.

“This is, and will continue to be, a key principle, I have no doubt.”

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is due to deliver a speech on Monday setting out his party’s Brexit approach.

But a letter backed by more than 80 senior Labour figures warned the leader his plans for investment in schools, hospitals and social care risk being unaffordable unless the UK stays in the EU single market.

Mrs May’s latest statement echoes words used by former Conservative prime minister Harold Macmillan who famously told Britons they had “never had it so good”.

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In 1957, in a speech urging pay restraint and warning against inflation, he told Tory supporters: “You will see a state of prosperity such as we have never had in my lifetime – nor indeed in the history of this country.”

Six years later, after leading the Conservatives to election victory in 1959, his government was badly harmed by the Profumo Affair and was deposed in 1964.

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