Theresa May commands respect of EU leaders, says senior Conservative MEP

New British PM's leadership skills will prove invaluable in coming months ahead, says Ashley Fox.

Theresa May | Photo credit: Press Association

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

13 Jul 2016

Ashley Fox, who leads the British Conservatives in the European Parliament, says he is confident new British prime minister Theresa May will secure a Brexit deal “that is in the best interests of both Britain and our European partners.“

Former British home secretary May will replace David Cameron as premier today, Wednesday 13 July.

Fox said, "I warmly welcome Theresa May as the new Leader of the Conservative Party and our next Prime Minister".


"She secured the backing of an overwhelming majority of Conservative MPs and has delivered a clear vision of how she intends to unite the country. Theresa's determination, integrity and proven leadership skills will prove invaluable as we set about negotiating our departure from the EU and establishing Britain´s new place in the world as an outward facing champion of free trade, fairness and freedom."

Fox a member of the European Parliament's Conservative and reformist group said, "The respect [May] commands in EU capitals will ensure we secure a deal that is in the best interests of both Britain and our European partners. I and my Conservative MEP colleagues will, of course, provide her with every assistance in the months ahead.”

He also paid tribute to his Conservative party colleague Andrea Leadsom who dropped out of the British leadership race earlier this week.

He said, “Her decision to withdraw from the leadership race, and the manner in which she did so, is typical of her principled approach and in the best traditions of public service."

With events in UK politics moving at a blistering pace, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called on Britain to “quickly clarify how it wants to constitute its future relationship with the EU.”

Speaking in Berlin, Merkel said she wanted the UK to remain an important partner, “but of course the EU and the remaining 27 member states also have to protect their interests.”

She added, “For example, whoever would like to have free access to the European internal market will also have to accept all basic freedoms in return, including the free movement of people.”

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny travelled to Berlin on Tuesday to discuss the post-Brexit fallout with Merkel while French President François Hollande is due to embark on a tour of the EU-27 to reinforce ties following the Brexit vote.

“The French president will be visiting Portugal on 19 July, the Czech Republic, Austria and Slovakia on 20 July and Ireland on 21 July, in order to follow up on work already started with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and give a “new impulse to Europe at 27”, says a communiqué released by the Elysée Palace.

Separately, French Finance Minister Michel Sapin hit out at recently unveiled UK plans to cut corporate tax, saying, “I am not persuaded that this is a good thing for the UK. This will not change anything on the [financial services] passport for instance. In fact, it’s not a good way to start a negotiation.”

Meanwhile, in a new discussion paper, Fabian Zuleeg, of the European Policy Centre, a leading Brussels based think-tank, says that while Brexit will be painful for both the UK and the EU, an ‘exit from Brexit’ could even be more costly, as it will further destabilise UK society.

He writes, “In recent weeks and days, following the political chaos in the UK and the realisation of the magnitude of the Brexit vote, there are some who have started to express their hope that a Brexit can be avoided.

“However, Theresa May has made it clear that there is no way back… although Brexit will be painful for both the UK and the EU, an ‘exit from Brexit’ could even be more costly, as it will further destabilise UK society and confirm the populists and eurosceptics’ view that the (European) elites do not listen to the people if it is not in their own interest, fuelling the anti-establishment vote in the UK and in the rest of Europe.”

Zuleeg goes on, “The EU and its member states should also resist the temptation of making concessions on fundamental ‘red lines’ – the four basic freedoms and exclusion from decision-making – during negotiations in the hopes of keeping the UK close, and instead take a more Realpolitik approach.”

He adds, “Accepting the UK’s decision and standing firm on EU principles might prove to be difficult, but an attempt to reverse the referendum result against the will of the people or a favourable divorce settlement disrespecting fundamental ‘red lines’ would cause much graver damage – maybe even the disintegration of the EU.”

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