Theresa May – 2016 Statement in Rome


Below is the text of the statement made by Theresa May, the Prime Minister, in Rome, Italy on 27 July 2016.

Thank you very much Matteo and thank you for such a warm welcome in every sense of the term.

It reflects the close friendship between both our countries. I wanted to come to Rome today to underline Britain’s commitment to this relationship.

As we make a success of Brexit, it is crucial that we work with important member states like Italy to strive for a solution which respects the decision of British voters, recognising that while the UK is leaving the European Union, it is still very much part of Europe.

This means we will continue to work together on a range of things.

And that’s why here today, we have talked not just about a successful Brexit but also about how we work together as you have said to respond to the complex global challenges we face, Italy and the UK, such as terrorism and migration.

I’d like to say a few words on each.

First, Brexit.

We have agreed on the importance of maintaining the closest possible economic ties once the UK leaves the EU.

Italy is the UK’s eighth largest export market and trade in goods alone was worth £24 billion last year. We want that trade to continue, but of course it will take time to work out the nature of our relationship.

And that’s why we should take time to prepare for these negotiations, so that both sides can identify their objectives.

We have already begun that work in the UK and yesterday I chaired the first meeting of the Cabinet Committee on exiting the European Union to prepare and plan for an orderly departure.

Of course, as long as we remain in the EU we will respect the rights and obligations of EU membership, and I have assured the Prime Minister today that the UK will continue to be a strong voice for international free trade.

Prime Minister Renzi and I have also discussed our joint efforts to fight terrorism.

Yesterday’s attack in Northern France on an innocent Catholic priest in a place of sanctuary and peace was yet another brutal reminder of the threat that we all face. Following on from the atrocities in Nice and Germany, it reinforces the need for action both in Europe and on the wider global stage.

In Europe, we must increase further our intelligence co-operation and share vital information swiftly and effectively, enabling us to better protect ourselves from these terrorists who seek to destabilise us.

In Iraq and Syria, the UK and Italy are already leading players in the coalition to counter Daesh.

And I think we agree on the importance of reinvigorating the political process in Syria, securing a genuine ceasefire and unlocking humanitarian access.

As Italy takes a seat on the United Nations Security Council next year, this is another issue on which we will work together.

We have also discussed the situation in Libya where both Italy and the UK are at the forefront of international efforts to support the new government. And it is in all our interests to help Prime Minister Serraj to restore stability and rebuild the economy.

And that is the best way to prevent Libya becoming a base for Daesh and to tackle the criminal gangs that continue to exploit illegal migrants and traffic innocent men, women and children for profit.

Ninety per cent of migrants crossing the Central Mediterranean set off from Libya, so both our countries have urged our European partners to do more to stem the flow of illegal migration from there.

Together we secured agreement to extend the EU’s naval operation to include capacity building of the Libyan coastguard and we hope that training will get underway in September.

We also agree on the need to do more upstream in the countries where migrants are coming from, particularly in the Horn of Africa and West Africa.

Today has been a useful and constructive meeting here in Rome.

The UK is leaving the EU but we will continue to strengthen ties with our European friends.

Outside of the EU, the UK and Italy will continue to co-operate through NATO, the G20 and the G7; and I look forward to attending next year’s summit in Sicily.

Our common interests in promoting economic growth, fostering stability around the world and tackling social injustice will drive us to work together. That is in the interests of everyone here in Italy, back home in Britain and the rest of the world.

And as we begin this new chapter in our relationship, I look forward to working with you, Prime Minister, to make the most of this partnership.

Matteo Renzi’s statement

I’m really privileged to pay homage to Theresa May, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, here in Rome. I would like to thank her for being here today with us in such a beautiful place and you can see the Vatican St Peter’s at the back, and the sunshine is a bit hot and high in the sky, but we are really happy and privileged to have this opportunity. I would like to extend my warm welcome to the entire delegation and the new ambassador of the United Kingdom who has took office 2 days ago, on Monday. She’s now on her third day.

I’m really privileged and happy for this opportunity after the decision of the British people to leave the EU. Of course, we are sad about this decision, because somehow, it affects 600,000 Italian citizens living in the United Kingdom, in England. However, it is a decision of the British people which we fully respect, as should be the case, and which requires a lot of common sense, clarity and the certainty of a clear-cut path. The Italian government is interested in working together to collaborate [inaudible] and something good might come from it, not only for the United Kingdom, for Italy, but also for European Union institutions.

This meeting gave us the opportunity to discuss these issues and also the importance to continuously collaborate on my policy for Africa, as well as the importance we attribute to migration. We sincerely believe that we should be extremely attentive to human aspects and saving lives. We do need a European policy where rules are complied with, in the respect of the fathers of the European Union, but at the same time, to contribute with aid [inaudible]. We are truly happy to welcome Prime Minister Theresa May and her delegation in the coming multilateral meeting, the G7, which will be held in Taormina, in May 2017, when we will try to focus in particular on aspects about education, culture and identity, defending identity, defending our values as a tool to be credible in this ever-changing world.

We also spoke about bilateral issues among which some are maybe not at the forefront for public opinion. I’m thinking about university aspects, collaboration in this field, and the many other aspects we are aiming to solve jointly in the field of defence, for example, with Finmeccanica today renaming itself Leonardo, and the United Kingdom, is a win-win solution, because we are the same family, but we are now producing engineering defence and many other services. And I also am referring to the many challenges up ahead for the international community, and I believe it will be fundamental to convey a message of solidity and clarity.

[Inaudible] I think it is a crucial moment so we can jointly create a new partnership. The fact that we won’t be members of the same union certainly does not deprive us of the importance and the solidity of this relationship, which is familiar not only to Rome, but to all the Italian cities, because the cultural, political, institutional and humanitarian and value links between Britain and Italy are extremely solid and sound, and which dates back to centuries, and which I believe will continue for the coming months and years. We are truly convinced, and for all these reasons, I would like to thank Theresa for having chosen to be with us today.


Andrea Bonini, Sky TG24. The question is for Prime Minister. There are thousands of Italians living and studying in London, and today, after the Brexit, are scared and concerned. Can you reassure them somehow?

And also, in terms of security, do you believe that Brexit can represent an element of vulnerability and of chaos? I’m thinking about the long lines that we have seen in Dover last week.

Now, as regards the terrorism, President Mattarella has underlined this morning that we certainly cannot give in to fear. But what happened yesterday in France makes this kind of feeling difficult to resist, and often Europe is not very solid. It’s difficult to have a common position, a common stand, also in terms of intelligence co-operation. I’m thinking about the coming elections in Germany and France, and the referendum in Italy. Do you believe that they can slow down this kind of division?

Prime Minister

Thank you. On the issue that you raise of Italian and other EU citizens who are living in the UK, I want to be able to guarantee their rights in the UK. I expect to be able to do that. I intend to be able to do that to guarantee their rights. The only circumstances in which that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states were not guaranteed. But I hope this is an issue that we can address early on.

In relation to the question about security, no, I think that the security relationships that the UK has bilaterally and collectively with the member states of the European Union are very important to all of us. We all face the threat from terrorism that we have seen result in the terrible incidents that we saw only this week in northern France, but also, as I said, previously in France and Germany and, indeed, previously in Belgium.

In addressing that, it is important that we continue to cooperate on security matters. That’s why, as I said in my remarks, I think cooperating on intelligence sharing, ensuring that vital information is shared quickly and effectively is one of the best ways in which we can work together to ensure that we deal with this threat to protect our citizens, but also to ensure that the terrorists do not win. They are trying to attack our values. They are attacking our way of life. They will not prevail.

Matteo Renzi

Allow me as well to share – to fully share the consideration and the remarks of Prime Minister. I am perfectly aligned that we should continue to work jointly. There is no change and we will continue to work with the same resolve in our fight against terrorism.

I have nothing to add to the very wise and clear words of the President of the Republic this morning, Sergio Mattarella and as the President has said, we should not be afraid. We should not give in to fear. We have to be able to react in a strong, determined way against terrorism, against this feeling of terror. And to be able to react with a lot of determination.

This, first of all, we owe it for those who died, Father Jacques, who lost his life while he was celebrating the Eucharist, and to the many victims in Europe, and also the many victims of our citizens throughout the world. I’m thinking about those British who died in Tunisia just a year ago, and the Italians who died in Dhaka just a few weeks ago.

Terrorism is trying to disintegrate our lives and when they’re enabled to do that, they try to create fear and terror [inaudible]. We have to reaffirm our values, our identity, and we have to continue fighting, aware that our first challenge is not to give in. We have to remain strong and solid, believing in our culture. No democratic change, be it the Brexit or any other change – referring to France, Germany, Italy – will be able to change and to modify these principles. You can change governments. You can change political parties. You can change memberships, as will happen with the Brexit. But you will not change anything in terms of fight against terrorism and values and identity, which our people have always represented.

And I would truly want to thank Prime Minister Theresa May. She has served for many years before becoming Prime Minister, she has been Home Secretary for her country. She has collaborated very effectively with our Home Minister Alfano with great resolve and collaboration.


James Mates from ITV News. On your talks in Europe, are you detecting any flexibility on this issue of restrictions of freedom of movement whilst retaining single market access? And is it still your government’s wish to maintain access to the single market in the light of Liam Fox’s remarks in Washington.

And can I ask you too, Prime Minister Renzi, do you see any grounds at all for compromise on this issue between freedom of movement and single market?

Prime Minister

First of all, James, in relation to obviously the comments that Liam Fox made, he was setting out very clearly what is a technical and legal position in relation to the interaction between customs, unions and free trade agreements. We had a very clear message from the British people in the Brexit vote, that they want us to bring in some control on free movement; they don’t want free movement rules for movement of people from the European Union member states into the UK to operate as they have done in the past. And we will deliver on that.

But on the other side, we do of course need to ensure that we get the best possible deal in relation to trade in goods and services. And I’m looking at this with an open mind. I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union; not at opting necessarily a model that’s on the shelf already, but saying: what is going to work for the UK and what is going to work best for the European Union; in ensuring that we can maintain that economic relationship which has been of benefit to us in the past, and we want to ensure that we can continue and build on in the future.

Matteo Renzi

All the political life is a life of compromise, but I think it is a very delicate point for the reason Theresa explains very well now. So, English leaders – Britain leaders explain very well the point: Brexit is Brexit. Now the priority is work together to give a message of co-operation, friendship and future. But the debate about the results in Britain is a great debate for the history. Brexit is Brexit. We cannot open again the discussion, because if we open again the discussion, we give a message against the idea of democracy. If we vote and then we don’t see the consequences about the points of discussion in the vote this is a problem for credibility in entire leadership. So we will work together very closely with great determination.

For us it’s important to give a message of clear timeline to avoid the risks also because I think the next months, the next year will be a great opportunity also for Europe to discuss about the future of this institution. This institution was a miracle after 60 years of peace and of prosperity. We are really proud for the great results, but now it’s time to build a vision. On terrorism, we will work strongly with the UK government and together, give a message of co-operation respecting the results of the vote and the decision of the Britain people.

Thank you very much also for resisting under this hot sunshine. I apologise for the sun but I believe this is really an opportunity for everybody.