'Brexit means Brexit' Theresa May tells Hampstead Tories hours after announcing her leadership bid
PUBLISHED: 11:57 01 July 2016 | UPDATED: 16:12 01 July 2016
Just hours after announcing her bid to become leader of the Conservative Party, Theresa May was given a standing ovation as she swept into Hampstead - keeping a date with the local Tories which she made months ago.
Ms May, bookies favourite to become the next Tory leader, addressed a crowd of Hampstead and Kilburn Conservative supporters in a private home in Alvanley Gardens yesterday evening.
Describing herself as a “clear remainer”, Ms May stressed however that there was no going back on Brexit and that action must be taken to control levels of free movement in the United Kingdom.
The Home Secretary said: “I am clear that Brexit means Brexit and we should ensure that we are putting that into practice.
“..We must listen to those who voted out because for many of them actually immigration was an issue and we need to make sure we do something to deal with the issue of free movement. It cannot carry on operating as it has hitherto. And I think we need to negotiate on some security issues that I have dealt with, with the EU. So that is an important task in itself.”
She stressed that as Prime Minister she would work for the “best possible deal in terms of trade and goods and services and it is services, particularly financial services, that are so important to us here in the UK.”
But she also warned that the Government should not become “totally consumed” with the Brexit negotiations” and should focus on healing the racial divisions and attitudes seen in its wake “that belong in the past.”
Dressed in a tartan suit, perhaps as a gesture to people in Scotland, Ms May said another priority would be keeping the United Kingdom together.
“The Brexit negotiation is linked in to the question of keeping the United Kingdom together. The Scottish Nationalists, we know Nicola Sturgeon is going around over to Brussels and so forth. I think actually if we get a good deal in terms of our relationship with the EU from the negotiations that will be a very important element in keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom and I believe passionately that we should keep the United Kingdom together.”
The Home Secretary also expressed her pain at racial attacks seen over the last weekend.
“It pains me to say this in a sense but I am afraid we have seen some divisions developing in society. Some of the attacks that we saw at the weekend are such that have brought to the fore some racial divisions and some sort of attitudes we thought and hoped were in the past.
“There is a real need in our society today to heal those divisions and to bring people together and I think the vision of this party must be of as a party in government for all people. and for the whole country.”
But when asked by Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper whether the many EU citizens currently living in the borough of Camden would have a right to remain here, Ms May said: “There is an issue in relation to citizens living on either side. I wasn’t trying to suggest we don’t want some people to be here, just that there are elements of the freedom of movement rules that need sorting out.”
Currently bookies favourite to win the Tory leadership contest, Ms May ruled out an immediate general election if she was to become Prime Minister.
“I am clear we should not have a general election until 2020. If we were to have one now it would further destabilise the country”
Many of Camden’s conservative councillors at the event expressed their surprise and admiration that the candidate for future Prime Minister kept her date with them on such a dramatic day in British politics.
Hampstead Town councillor Oliver Cooper said: “I want to thank you for coming to our event and not cancelling. I know lesser people would have done so. Its a sign of your respect for local associations.”
Praising Theresa May for attending the event, Camden Conservatives leader Claire-Louise Leyland said: “We need someone who can be a Prime Minister from day one and we need someone who is not afraid to face up to challenges that others have shied away from.”