Last June, the people of Portsmouth voted decisively for the UK to leave the European Union.
And yesterday the Prime Minister set the country firmly on that path by triggering Article 50 — starting the two-year process of negotiating our exit from the bloc.
It was a momentous occasion for our country, which shows the Government is determined to deliver the change people voted for.
We have already started the work to prepare ourselves for our new place in the world, outside the EU. Today, the government has laid out its plans for ending the supremacy of EU law — as we look to repeal the European Communities Act, and convert the body of existing EU law into domestic law.
It will be for our sovereign Parliament to amend, repeal and improve any law it chooses. It’s vital that we make the most of the opportunities our exit from the EU will bring.
The negotiations ahead won’t be easy. But I have a fiercely ambitious vision for our future – one that I believe will benefit Portsmouth for generations to come.
We have an unprecedented chance to build a more global Britain – a Britain that is stronger, fairer, and more outward-looking than ever before, that works for communities in every part of the country.
Of course, we will continue to be friends, trading partners and close allies to the EU. Our Royal Navy, with one of its major naval bases situated in Portsmouth and employing thousands of military personnel, as well as civilians, will continue to stand side by side with our European neighbours.
We will always protect each other against threats to our way of life.
Portsmouth businesses will, of course, continue to trade with the continent. Across the south east, economic growth has accelerated rapidly since 2010 –167,000 small businesses have been started, and around 50,000 more people are in employment compared to last year – and we want to see this continue.
In January Lord Bridges, Minister for Exiting the EU, made a visit to Portsmouth to meet with business leaders, to listen to their views on what implications Brexit will have, and explain the government’s approach to negotiations.
We will seek a comprehensive, bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU that will give Portsmouth businesses the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets, and allow European businesses to do the same here.
At the same time, we will take advantage of our new freedom to strike trade deals with emerging markets around the world, forging new links that will increase our prosperity. Leaving the EU will also allow us to take charge of our immigration system, and design a system that is a fair and balanced, working in the national interest.
When it comes to EU nationals already living and working in Portsmouth and the UK, and UK nationals living in EU nations, we are clear that securing their status is a top priority as we head into negotiations. We want to get an agreement on this as soon as possible.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about our future outside the EU, as we deliver the change that you voted for.
And we take control of our own affairs, let’s seize on the opportunities that lie ahead to build an even more outward-looking Portsmouth, as part of a global Britain.