In the local elections, many Conservative councillors lost their seats. I want to thank all of my colleagues for their tremendous hard work and dedication to public duty, and for all they did to improve the lives of the communities which they served.
I have been a councillor and I know what a rewarding and important job it is.
They did not deserve what happened and I am sorry.
It is clear that the voters delivered their judgment in large part based on what is happening – or not happening – at Westminster. And, as Prime Minister, I fully accept my share of the responsibility for that.
The voters expect us to deliver on the result of the referendum and, so far, Parliament has rejected the deal which I have put forward.
The March 29 exit date has been delayed, the public is frustrated – and I fully understand why.
Three years have passed now since the historic 2016 vote and people really do just want us to get on with it.
But the electorate delivered a message on Brexit to Labour, too. Labour also lost seats and councils which it has held for decades.
Clearly, the public is fed up with the failure of both of the two main parties to find a way to honour the result of the referendum, take the United Kingdom out of the European Union and to bring our country back together again.
There is no use trying to escape the facts, however uncomfortable they may be. I have tried, tried and tried again to deliver Brexit with the votes of Conservative MPs and our confidence and supply partners, the DUP.
I negotiated with the EU what I believe is a very good deal for the UK – a deal which allows us to genuinely take back control of our money and our laws.
The free movement of people will end – giving us control of our own borders for the first time in decades. However, I could not persuade enough of my colleagues to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement and, regrettably, I have to accept there is no sign of that position changing.
© Provided by Associated Newspapers Limited Pictured: Theresa May arrives to cast her vote at a polling stationMeanwhile, the series of indicative votes which MPs held did not deliver any path forwards. Parliament said what it didn’t want – but not what it was prepared to vote for.
Since then, the Government has been in talks with the Opposition to try to find a unified, cross-party position. I understand many of my colleagues find this decision uncomfortable. Frankly, it is not what I wanted, either.
But, as elected politicians, who asked the public to give us an instruction on whether to leave the EU, we cannot now shrug our shoulders and say it’s all too difficult.
We have to find a way to break the deadlock – and I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.
The talks with Labour so far have been serious. We don’t agree with the Opposition on lots of policy issues, but on Brexit there are areas we do agree on – leaving with a good deal that protects jobs and our security and ends free movement.
But there are also differences on precisely what the UK’s future relationship with the EU should look like, so reaching an agreement will require compromise from both sides.
We will keep negotiating, with more formal talks due to take place on Tuesday, and keep trying to find a way through.
Because the real thing that matters now is delivering Brexit and moving on to all the other issues people care about. The longer that takes, the greater the risk we will not leave at all. We need to get out of the EU and get a deal over the line.
To MPs, I would say this: if we are able to negotiate a cross-party agreement, this deal will be a stepping stone to a brighter future, outside the EU, where the UK can determine the road ahead.
This is because no parliament can bind its successor.
Some people would prefer a less close relationship with the EU in the future, while others would prefer a closer relationship.
The key point is, the ultimate decision-maker in everything we do is Parliament. So future parliaments, with a different party balance, will be able to decide whether they want a closer or more distant relationship with the EU.
I do sincerely believe that – more than 34 long months on from the referendum – what people want is for their politicians to come together in the national interest and get Brexit over the line.
And to the Leader of the Opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal.