GUARDIAN Theresa May has been accused of lying about the impact of immigration on Britain by a senior European government figure. It was Tomas Prouza, the Czech state secretary for European affairs, who made the claim in a speech at Charles University in Prague at a conference on Brexit. He also delivered a harsh assessment of May’s Brexit strategy. Here is the full text, and here are the key points.
- Prouza accused Theresa May of lying about the impact of EU migrants on Britain.
Czechoslovakia managed to get divorced without much fuss. I believe we should strive for the similar effect here. Our legacy for future generations cannot be a world where the clock turned back a century and everybody is an enemy. However, we cannot achieve this if we continue to make unfounded claims about each other. I am speaking about the continuing and growing aggression towards other nationals, especially citizens from central Europe, in the UK. As I mentioned at the beginning, time and time again, numbers have shown that EU citizens contribute more to Britain’s economy than they take out. Even so, this alternative fact, or let’s call it what it is – a lie, once again re-surfaced in Theresa May’s speech. Let’s move beyond such tactics and build our new relationship on facts and respect, not populism and lies.
This seems to be a reference to this passage in May’s Lancaster House speech, where she said immigration was having a negative effect on communities.
In the last decade or so, we have seen record levels of net migration in Britain, and that sheer volume has put pressure on public services, like schools, stretched our infrastructure, especially housing, and put a downward pressure on wages for working class people.
The text of the speech on Prouza’s website includes a link to a Guardian article saying EU migrants make a net contribution to the British economy.
- He said May’s Brexit plans were contradictory, because making Britain more global was incompatible with restricting immigration.
To sum it up „Theresa May’s speech means Theresa May’s speech“. We are a bit confused – the main idea of a fairer, more open, and more Global Britain seems nice on paper, but how do you want to be open when one of the key elements of the plan is to stop the inflow of bright and hardworking people from all over the world that invested so much of their energy into making Britain great? How do you want to “reach beyond Europe” when your plan is to close yourself up and when you are best friends with a man who is basing his new administration on cutting his international ties?
- He said May’s claim that no Brexit deal would be better than a bad Brexit deal was “dangerous” and wrong.
Hard Brexit itself is not what we would have wanted, but there is a good and bad way of doing it. The rhetoric that “no deal is better than a bad deal” is certainly the latter. The UK sometimes seems to be forgetting that it needs us too. Yes, UK is a big business partner for the EU, but so is the EU for the UK. This splendid isolation game regardless of the real consequences is dangerous.
- He said May’s desire to have a very close trading relationship with the EU without being in the single market or the customs union was “unrealistic”. That was because the EU would not allow “cherry picking”, he said.
The UK’s ambitions to have trade relations as close as possible without being a part of the single market and the customs union are frankly speaking unrealistic. The EU cannot undermine the very principles on which the internal market was established and has to ensure a level playing field.
The possibility of cherry-picking is the biggest danger that would devalue the existing efforts of all Member States. We cannot allow unhindered access to the single market in areas that suit the UK and limit access to the UK market for European companies. There must be some “Give” for all the UK’s “Take”.
These quotes all give the impression that it was an anti-British speech. But it wasn’t. Prouza ended with a passage saying the EU did not want to punish the UK for Brexit and stressing the close historical ties between the British and the Czechs.
Neither the Czech Republic nor the EU has the intent to punish the UK for the legitimate decision of its citizens. We have tight historic ties; have been long-standing allies and I sincerely believe this will not change. We should leave this process as partners as well. Let me remind you that during World War II, the Czech government in exile had its base in London; similarly, Czech pilots played a role in the success of the Royal Air Force. We must not forget these key historic moments, we must remember the heroism of our ancestors and continue to work together. All the same time, the Czech Republic is a Member of the European Union and will continue to defend its principles and unity of the integration. We still believe moving forward together is the best available and most efficient option for us. As was once said, no man is an island… except for Britain, of course.