Tomorrow, the Prime Minister is set to deliver her most important address since her address at Lancaster House earlier this year. But with rumblings back home, and questions over the EU negotiations, what should she say?   

This week’s news has been dominated by Boris Johnson’s 4,000-word magnum opus for The Daily Telegraph. It means, in effect, that Theresa May’s speech has to be seen to stand alone – and not interpreted simply as a response to Johnson’s article. So, what does tomorrow’s speech need to deliver? In fact, much of the substance has already been laid out.

In Theresa May’s Lancaster House speech earlier this year, she set out a vision for a bold, confident and outward looking vision for a ‘Global Britain’. Its ambitions were inspiring. It painted the picture of a “Global Britain – the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike”.

In that speech, the Prime Minister presented a foreign policy image of Britain that the average bloke down the pub could take pride in. May talked of controlling our own laws – including our borders; of “being one of the best places in the world for science and innovation”. A great, global, trading nation. And one of the firmest advocates for free trade anywhere in the world”.

It was fantastic, in so many ways.

Since then, however, the government has been short on selling the positive image of Brexit – and what Britain can become.

There have been some members of the Cabinet, such as Liam Fox, who have flown the flag for the UK in this regard. But, with the result of the General Election hitting the narrative hard, the Prime Minister needs to reset the standard and give the people of Britain the confidence to migrate towards an open and outward looking United Kingdom.

Of course, this is in the context of the valuable work that David Davis and his Department have been doing to put together, firstly, the UK’s negotiation positions with the EU and, secondly, an understanding of what might come next.

The work that has been done to provide understanding on what the UK is looking to achieve in these negotiations with the EU and beyond has, in my view, not been given enough credit in the media. Indeed, with the backdrop of a ‘less than optimal’ General Election result, and stubbornness and inflexibility shown by the EU, the press has not been kind to the Government’s plans and ambitious.

Of course, there are reasons why this has been the case. Frankly, too much criticism has been thrown at the Government. Mr Barnier and his so-called negotiators have, in many cases, not displayed the imagination that EU Council President, Donald Tusk, has previously called on for the negotiators to exhibit. Unfortunately for David Davis and his team, the British media and the Labour Party has seen this as a golden opportunity to bash the government – or even Brexit itself.

But there have been areas of genuine disagreement throughout this negotiation process. Chief among these disagreements has been the matter of money – with the UK negotiators famously taking the EU’s so-called claims over the UK taxpayer apart line by line.

This approach was said to anger Barnier’s team. But if the EU cannot show flexibility on this then why should the UK? Indeed, it may well be a mistake for the PM to offer a specific sum of money at this stage.

What is often not appreciated is that there is no legal basis for the claim to British cash post Brexit. If leave means leave, if Brexit means Brexit, then the EU is not entitled to take the UK taxpayer’s money unless it covers agency work that the UK will be members of post Brexit.

Another aspect of the discussions that has been problematic has centred over citizens’ rights and jurisdiction. Firstly, the Prime Minister has previously made exceptionally generous offers on behalf of the UK in this regard. In her Lancaster House speech, she said that “we want to guarantee the rights of EU citizens who are already living in Britain, and the rights of British nationals in other member states, as early as we can”. This has been followed up with position papers from DExEU setting out a number of possibilities. Again, the problem seems to be the EU – and it’s time to get tough.

Tomorrow’s speech in Florence marks a new opportunity. Before the result of both the German elections and the fourth round of the Brexit negotiations this speech can be used as a platform to take back control of the narrative and articulate a picture of a once more self-confident nation.

What the Prime Minister needs to make clear is that the UK has a bright future – with or without the EU. The tone needs to be serious on this point. Serious about engaging with the EU in areas that suit both parties but also making clear that if the UK doesn’t see the EU acting in good faith, we are prepared to walk away.

Indeed, the reiteration of the phrase ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ needs to be made. I am aware that the idea of the UK becoming a ‘Singapore or Hong Kong of Europe’ is not at the top of Theresa May’s agenda – even if they are some of the freest and most prosperous economies in the world – however, if the EU looks to lock the UK into arrangements that prevent it from using its competitive advantages in the global market place then we should wave goodbye.

This also goes over the issue of jurisdiction. There was much controversy over the position paper that called for an end of the EU’s “direct jurisdiction” over the UK’s court system. Many people thought that meant remaining close to the European Court of Justice – in the EFTA Court, for instance. Theresa May needs to signal that continuing to fall within the EFTA Court’s jurisdiction is not an option – and be proud to say it, too!

There does need to be a lot of confidence in this speech. Frankly, with the media agenda in the UK recently, there hasn’t been enough of it. Confidence, optimism and ambition. We need to see another Lancaster House speech in Florence. Something that is bold, thinks big and demonstrates to the EU that neither this lady nor the UK is for turning.

4.64 avg. rating (92% score) - 11 votes