Theresa May stated that “Brexit means Brexit” and sees herself as a “unifier” for the party and nation, but gave elusive responses over the condition of free movement in the single market, and sharia law in Britain.
Speaking before Andrea Leadsom stood down and left her the only remaining candidate to become the Prime Minister, Home Secretary Theresa May launched her national campaign at a press conference in Birmingham. Saying that she would bring the country and party together under her leadership, she remarked: “Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it”.
However, when questioned on whether on condition of remaining in the single market Britain would have to retain freedom of movement with European Union (EU) nationals, and on her position on sharia law in the UK, Mrs. May gave vague, mealy-mouthed responses.
Launching her national campaign for leadership of the Conservative Party less than a hour before fellow-candidate Andrea Leadsom announced that she would be dropping out of the contest, she remarked on her party support where she gained nearly two thirds of fellow Tory MPs’ votes, stating that: “The results showed that after the EU referendum the party can come together, and under my leadership it will.”
Mrs. May continued, focusing on the decision by the British electorate on 23rd June:
“Make no mistake the referendum was a vote to leave the European Union… There are politicians who think that we should ignore the vote and keep Britain inside the EU.
“Well I couldn’t be clearer. Brexit means Brexit and we are going to make a success of it. There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU. There will be no attempts to rejoin it by the back door, no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union and as Prime Minister I will make sure that we leave the European Union.
“We must leave the European Union and forge a new role for ourselves in the world…We will build a better Britain.”
However, when pressed whether the leadership candidate would try to achieve Britain staying in the single market by relaxing Leave supporters’ free movement stance – a topic which dominated the referendum debate – Mrs. May responded:
“In relation to the single market and the negotiations: we need to get the best deal…But I am very clear that the Brexit vote was also a message that we need to bring control into free movement. Free movement cannot continue as it has done up till now.”
Carefully choosing her words, Mrs. May believed that the “message” voters were giving politicians in Westminster was to bring “control” to the number of EU migrants, rather than an ‘instruction’ by the electorate that free movement should end. The response was not, however, a resounding unequivocal pledge that the condition of belonging to a single market will not be linked to freedom of movement in any way, shape or form.
This ambiguous response is reminiscent of the establishment Tory Vote Leave campaigner and Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan’s statement that Vote Leave had never promised British voters an end to uncontrolled immigration from the EU, provoking BBC Newsnight host Evan Davis of accusing Vote Leave of deceiving its own supporters.
When asked what she had to say in response to accusations that the Home Secretary was a supporter of sharia law in Britain, Mrs. May responded not so much that she has a problem with a parallel legal system operating in the UK, but whether or not it is “discriminatory” in nature:
“I’ve been a politician who’s been willing to say: ‘No, I’m concerned that Sharia law has been operating in a way that could discriminate against women and could be counter to what is our single rule of law that we have in the UK…that’s why I’ve set up the review that I have [to be] chaired by Mona Siddiqui. That will be looking at the operation of sharia law and whether it is operating to discriminate against women and counter to our overall rule of law.”
In May of this year, the Home Secretary had come out and said that Muslims in Britain “benefit a great deal” from sharia courts. She launched an “independent” inquiry, chaired by two imams, into whether the controversial courts’ judgements are at odds with British gender equality laws, which critics of the inquiry took as the Home Secretary legitimising sharia courts.