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SIDEBAR Opposition politicians, analysts see 'nothing concrete' from May

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
London (dpa) - British opposition leaders and political analysts saw little new in Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Brexit speech on Friday, despite it receiving a cautious welcome from the European Union.

May "didn‘t need to go to Florence to accept that Labour is right about Brexit transitional arrangements," said Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary for the opposition Labour party.

"Not much else in the speech," Starmer added on Twitter.

But Sandro Gozi, undersecretary for EU affairs in the Italian government, who listened to May in Florence, told dpa that "it was a useful speech that made progress on citizens‘ rights and the ECJ (European Court of Justice) powers."

"And the transitional period is good news, as it can facilitate financial negotiations on which we finally have an opening," Gozi said.

"The prospect of a strong and ambitious future partnership on trade and security is something that we share," he said. "Now let‘s see how this will translate already in next week‘s negotiation round."

Colin Talbot, a professor of government at Manchester and Cambridge universities, insisted that the speech was "utter, self-important nonsense."

"This is just waffle, wrapped up in ambiguity, seasoned with platitudes and buzzwords. Nothing concrete," Talbot wrote on Twitter.

Manfred Weber, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s Bavarian sister party, also said the speech had brought "no more clarity to London‘s positions."

"I am even more concerned now," Weber said on Twitter. "The clock is ticking and time is running faster than the government believes in London."

Simon Usherwood, a Brexit-focused political analyst at the University of Surrey, agreed that there was "nothing much else" to May‘s speech apart from the proposed two-year transition after Brexit.

The speech was "an almost complete waste of everyone‘s time," Usherwood wrote.

"Basically, she‘s taken a long time to get to where most people thought we‘d be six-plus months ago," said Simon Hix, a political scientist at the London School of Economics.

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said both May‘s Conservatives and Labour, the main opposition, had "converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay economic pain of an extreme Brexit."

"Voters were promised 350 million pounds a week for the NHS (National Health Service); instead Theresa May is admitting the UK will have to pay a hefty Brexit bill worth billions of pounds," Cable said in a statement.

David Cullinane, Brexit spokesman for Irish republican party Sinn Fein, said the speech was "high on rhetoric, but short on detail."

"It is deeply disappointing that the issues in relation to Ireland have not moved on in any substantial way," Cullinane said.

Former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage said the speech was a "betrayal" and showed that May wants to leave the European Union "in name only."

"All areas of integration we have currently will be rebadged," said Farage, now a political commentator and UKIP member of the European Parliament.

But fellow Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson, now May‘s foreign secretary, called the speech "positive, optimistic and dynamic."

Johnson said May had set out a blueprint for "a strong Britain working hand in hand with a strong Europe" that would allow the country to "take back control of money, borders [and] laws."


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