British PM marks one-year Brexit countdown with UK tour

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Minister Questions at Parliament in London. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street to attend the weekly session of Prime Minister Questions at Parliament in London. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)

London – British Prime Minister Theresa May will mark the one-year countdown to Brexit on Thursday with a fast-paced national tour, aiming to unite the UK's four nations.

She will take in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales during her day-long tour, aiming to rally support ahead of Britain's EU departure on 29 March, 2019.

"Today, one year until the UK leaves the EU and begins to chart a new course in the world, I am visiting all four nations of the Union to hear from people across our country what Brexit means to them," May said ahead of her trip.

After visiting a textile factory in Ayrshire, western Scotland, May will travel to Newcastle in north-east England to meet a parent and toddler group.

Northern Ireland will be her next stop, for lunch with farmers near Belfast before a meeting with Welsh business owners in Barry, returning to London in time for tea with a group of Polish people.

"I am determined that as we leave the EU, and in the years ahead, we will strengthen the bonds that unite us," May said.

While Britain overall voted by 52% to leave the European Union, pro-Brexit voters in England and Wales outnumbered those in Scotland and Northern Ireland who wanted to remain in the bloc.

Tensions

There have been tensions between the devolved governments and London over May's handling of the Brexit negotiations so far, with Scotland and Wales last week backing bills to ensure that powers brought back from Brussels go to their capitals.

But ahead of her tour, May vowed that the devolved administrations "will see an increase in their decision-making powers" as a result of Brexit.

A further point of contention has arisen over the future of the Irish border after Britain leaves the European single market and customs union, with all sides in Brexit talks wanting to avoid imposing checks at the frontier.

May has agreed to Brussels' plan to keep Northern Ireland in the customs union if no better solution is found – a proposition deemed unacceptable by the nation's DUP party which props up the prime minister's majority in parliament.

May said she has a responsibility to ensure "no new barriers are created within our common domestic market", although the prime minister stopped short of detailing how the government will resolve the border issue.

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