Theresa May calls on all of UK to come together and seize 'opportunities for the future' from Brexit

Theresa May's first visit on Thursday was to a weaving firm in Ayr. Credit: Pool
  • Video report by ITV News political correspondent Carl Dinnen

With one year to go until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, the Prime Minister has called on the four nations of the UK to come together and seize the "opportunities for the future" from Brexit.

As the countdown to the formal departure begins, Theresa May spent Thursday making a whistle-stop tour of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

She also took the time to chat to ITV News political editor Robert Peston, when she pledged post-Brexit funds to the NHS and education.

So what happened where?

  • Scotland - the Prime Minister stresses unity

With a trip designed to stress the unity of the United Kingdom, Mrs May was hit with claims from the devolved administrations that Brexit could prove to be a "Westminster power grab", with some powers returning to London instead of Edinburgh or Cardiff.

Kicking off the day at a weaving firm in Ayr, on the western Scottish Coast, Mrs May insisted that each of the devolved administrations will see "an increase in their decision-making powers" as a result of the return of responsibilities currently exercised by the EU.

She continued that her Government remains "absolutely committed" to the devolution settlements and that Westminster would not be "taking back any of the powers that are currently devolved", and that instead, the devolved governments would "be receiving more powers as a result of us leaving the European Union...

"Brexit provides us with opportunities, I want to see us coming together, the four nations of the United Kingdom, we have a very strong union... and it is in our interests to come together and really seize these opportunities for the future."

The 61-year-old stressed that whichever way people voted in the referendum, what is important now is making Brexit "a success for everyone".

Other opportunities for the UK would be "opening up markets around the world", Mrs May said.

When questioned whether people would see any difference post-Brexit due to the transition period which will last until December 2020, Mrs May said the date had been agreed to "avoid a cliff-edge" and to give "people and businesses certainty".

  • England - Mrs May ducks NHS funding question

After departing Ayr, the Prime Minister arrived at a school near Newcastle to meet a parent and toddler group.

At St Andrew's school in Heddon-on-the-Wall, Mrs May ducked questions about whether there would be a "Brexit dividend" for the NHS.

While the Maidenhead MP said that after Brexit the UK would no longer be sending "vast sums of money" to Brussels, making cash available for national priorities like health, she did not rule out tax rises to fund her plans for a "multi-year settlement" for health services.

In an interview with the BBC, the PM was asked twice about tax hikes and three times about whether a "Brexit dividend" would be introduced to pay for health spending after leaving the European Union.

She replied: "What we are going to do on the NHS is we are going to work with clinicians, NHS leaders, with others, to look at what the plan for the NHS on a longer-term should be.

"We want to provide a multi-year funding settlement.

"We will do that as part of our normal processes and taking that balanced approach to how we deal with this."

On the prospects for a Brexit dividend, Mrs May said: "Of course when we leave the European Union we will no longer be sending vast sums of money year in, year out.

"So, there will be money available here in the UK for us to spend on our priorities - priorities like the NHS.

"We are going to look at a multi-year settlement, we are going to ensure, as we do that, we continue to take a balanced approach to our economy.

"We have got a long-term plan."

  • Northern Ireland

Theresa May visited a dairy farm in Northern Ireland. Credit: PA

On the third leg of her tour, the Prime Minister visited a dairy farm on the outskirts of Belfast, but was pressed on why she had not taken the opportunity to visit communities closer to the Irish border, given the acute concern held by many in that area about Brexit.

She also declined to commit to visiting the border before the UK leave the EU.

"I think it's not a question of just whether I actually go and stand on the border, it's a question of do I understand the impact that has for people?" Mrs May said.

Sitting down for lunch in the farmhouse with representatives of the Ulster Farmers' Union, the Tory MP heard of concerns within the agriculture industry about Brexit's potential to impact on the free flow of goods across the Irish border.

Farmers' representatives also stressed that they did not want a new border created in the Irish sea, obstructing important trade links with the rest of the UK.

In response, Mrs May told the farmers Brexit presented opportunities.

"I think one of the things that will come out of Brexit is the opportunity for agriculture here but across the UK to really - out of the CAP (EU's Common Agricultural Policy) - to set our own way of doing things," she said.

She told fellow guests at the lunch that on a recent visit to China she had learned of potential opportunities for milk exporters in the UK.

"There's lot of opportunities to find ways of doing these things," Mrs May said.

The Prime Minister added: "We are absolutely committed to ensuring there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland to ensure that free flow."

Farmers told the Prime Minister they were worried about the issue of the Irish border. Credit: PA
  • Wales

The Prime Minister will end her tour on Thursday in Wales.

  • Why is Theresa May visiting all the UK nations in one day?

Mrs May's tour comes amid polling suggesting that the UK remains deeply divided over Brexit, but has little appetite for a second referendum on the issue.

One survey this week recorded a 53%-47% lead for continued EU membership.

But 65% in a new ComRes poll for the Daily Express said they did not want a second referendum and 68% said that Remain voters should respect the will of the majority who backed Brexit.

The UK will formally leave the EU on March 29, 2019. Credit: PA
  • What have others said about the Prime Minister's tour?

Despite the Prime Minister's assurances that deals "would soon be agreed", Labour's shadow chancellor accused the Government of being in "chaos" over Brexit, following a series of defeats in the House of Lords on its flagship EU Withdrawal Bill.

John McDonnell told ITV News that he was "worried, extremely worried" that the "Government is nowhere near a deal" which "really needs to be sewn-up by the autumn".

He continued that any deal agreed by the Government with the EU would also need to meet Labour's six Brexit tests "to protect jobs and the economy".

If a deal does not meet those tests, "we expect Parliament as a whole to vote against it and then to say: 'go back to the negotiating table and get a real deal'," he told ITV News.

Should the Government not go back to the negotiating table if its Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament, then they should "stand down" and a General Election be called, the Labour MP said.

Mr McDonnell repeated Labour's calls for the UK to remain in "some form of customs union and as close to the single market as possible", but there was "no clarity on this at the minute" from the Government.

He added that being in a customs union would not be "taking instructions from Europe without a seat at the table", because the UK is a "large economy", providing a "strong negotiating position".

In preparation for Brexit, the MP for Hayes and Harlington said "resilience" would have to be built into the UK economy by focusing on developing "skills and infrastructure".

He added that Mrs May needed to listen to politicians and leaders from all sides of the political spectrum during her tour, not just Conservative viewpoints.

Tony Blair believes Brexit is 'more likely' to be stopped now than ever. Credit: PA

Meanwhile former prime minister Tony Blair said he believed it was "more likely" now than ever that Brexit could be stopped.

"It's not too late until we leave," he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

The ex-Labour leader said the "sensible" option was to "take a final decision" once the terms of the deal have been set out.

He added: "I think it is more likely we can stop it now than it was a few months ago."