UK must unite to seize the opportunities of Brexit, says Theresa May

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With one year to go until Brexit, Theresa May has issued a call for the country to “come together” and seize the opportunities of EU withdrawal.

The Prime Minister kicked off a whistle-stop tour of the four nations of the United Kingdom with a visit to a weaving firm in Ayr, where she said she expected to be able to negotiate a deal with the EU allowing a “good trading relationship” in future.

Mrs May’s all-day plane trip comes amid polling suggesting that the UK remains deeply divided over Brexit, but has little appetite for a second referendum on the issue.

Theresa May met workers at the Alex Begg textile company in Ayr (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell accused the Government of being in “chaos” over Brexit, following a series of defeats in the House of Lords on its flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.

Mr McDonnell played down suggestions from Emily Thornberry that Labour would “probably” support the deal obtained by Mrs May in a Commons vote this autumn, saying that the shadow foreign secretary was being “sarcastic”.

Former prime minister Tony Blair urged Mrs May to offer a free vote in the Commons on the final Brexit deal, telling the Independent that if she did not, Labour and Tory MPs should be ready to vote with their conscience and rebel.

Tony Blair, who spoke at a London conference on Brexit, said EU withdrawal could still be stopped (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Scottish National Party spokesman Michael Russell accused Mrs May of planning a “power grab” by repatriating some responsibilities currently exercised in Brussels to Westminster rather than Edinburgh.

“By pursuing a disastrous hard Brexit, regardless of the cost to jobs and living standards, Theresa May and the Tories have shown they think they can now do anything to Scotland and get away with it,” said Mr Russell.

But Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that “a glorious view awaits” Britain when it finally quits the EU.

Writing in the Express, Mr Johnson said: “Like an unstoppable express, we are heading for Brexit and frankly, my friends, we can’t arrive soon enough.”

Speaking in Ayr, Mrs May said she believed there were “real opportunities” for the UK in leaving the EU.

“I believe we can negotiate a good agreement which is tariff-free and as frictionless trade as possible, so we maintain those markets in the EU, but also that we open up markets around the rest of the world,” she said.

“Brexit provides us with opportunities. I want to see us coming together, the four nations across the United Kingdom.

“We have a very a strong union, that is in our interests and it is in our interests to come together and really seize these opportunities for the future.”

The PM then headed to Newcastle to meet with a local parent and toddler group, before later having lunch with farmers near Belfast.

She will then go on to Barry in south Wales for a round-table discussion with businesses, before completing her tour in west London with a group of Polish citizens who have made the UK their home.

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