Theresa May determined to keep 'precious union' together

  • 18/03/2017
Theresa May (Reuters)
Theresa May (Reuters)

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is pledging to fight for the "precious, precious union" of the United Kingdom, unveiling what she calls her 'Plan for Britain' with a warning to Scotland not to pursue its independence plans.

Facing two years of what are likely to be difficult talks for Britain as it leaves the European Union, Ms May wants to stamp her authority on a new agenda for the country but is struggling to repair deep divisions exposed by the Brexit vote.

Nationalists in Scotland have condemned her move to block their demands for a new independence referendum before the EU talks end as an "outrage", and Northern Ireland's largest Irish nationalist party says it wants a vote on splitting from Britain after both regions voted to stay in the bloc.

"The coming negotiations with the EU will be vital for everyone in the United Kingdom... It is essential that we get the right deal, and that all of our efforts and energies as a country and focused on that outcome," Ms May told her party.

"We need to do so united, as one United Kingdom, all pulling together to get the best outcome," she said, promising to ensure all the voices and interests in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are represented.

"I will always fight to strengthen and sustain this precious, precious Union," she added.

The ruling Scottish National Party in Edinburgh has refused to back down over its demand for a new independence vote after Ms May said: "Now is not the time." Some lawmakers suggest her tough stance could spur support for a new referendum.

Ms May did not linger on Brexit in her speech, saying simply she would adopt a "phased approach" to deliver a "smooth and orderly Brexit" and offer certainty wherever possible.