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British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech detailing her priorities for Brexit at Lancaster House in London on 17 January, 2017.
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a speech detailing her priorities for Brexit at Lancaster House in London on 17 January, 2017.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech outlining the priorities of the United Kingdom for negotiations over its withdrawal from the European Union had two particularly important segments for Finland, estimates Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).

The United Kingdom is ready to maintain and promote trade relations with the EU and willing to continue co-operation in the areas of anti-terrorism and security policy-making, Sipilä lists.

“Britain is an important trading partner for Finland. It is crucial that these close trade relations are preserved,” he wrote in his blog on Tuesday.

May stated in her much-anticipated speech yesterday afternoon that the United Kingdom is not intent on holding on to “bits of membership” or seeking an exit strategy that would leave it “half-in, half-out”. The United Kingdom, she said, “cannot possibly” remain within the single market and should expect its relationship with the customs union to change.

“An important part of the new strategic partnership we seek with the EU will be the pursuit of the greatest possible access to the single market, on a fully reciprocal basis, through a comprehensive free trade agreement,” she said according to the Independent.

“Britain must be free to strike trade agreements with countries from outside the European Union too.”

Sipilä believes the speech will allow both Finland and the EU to prepare for the historic negotiations, which – under an agreement reached by the remaining 27 EU member states – will not begin until the withdrawal process is formally initiated, by triggering the article 50, by the United Kingdom. The European Council will then be tasked with designing a roadmap for the remaining member states to commence the negotiations with the United Kingdom.

“[The Finnish] Government and Parliament will comment on the preparatory work on the roadmap and ascertain our national priorities for the negotiation process,” writes Sipilä.

The United Kingdom is expected to trigger the article 50 at the end of March.

May's speech has provoked reactions around Europe.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German Minister for Foreign Affairs, estimated that the speech has clarified the situation for other member states. “Finally, we have a little more clarity re the British plans,” he said according to the BBC.

Tomas Prouza, the Czech Secretary of State for European Affairs, labelled the objectives laid out for the negotiations as “a bit ambitious”. “Trade as free as possible, full control on immigration… where is the give for all the take?” he tweeted.

Carl Bildt, an ex-Prime Minister of Sweden, viewed that most of the remaining member states would have preferred that the United Kingdom was seeking to maintain closer ties with the European Union.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth – AFP/Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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