Theresa May kickstarted Brexit negotiations in a speech presented at the historic Santa Maria Novella church.
On Friday British Prime Minister Theresa May proposed a 2-year transition period to help Britain exit the European Union. According to CNN, “This transition period would give the two sides ‘access to one another’s markets on existing terms.'” May also promised to remain close to the EU after its official departure, saying, “We want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU and the UK thrive side by side.”
Her speech was carefully planned, in part, to help heal the division that has occurred in the last year. Interestingly , May chose a Catholic Church to be her venue for this major speech.
The speech was delivered at Santa Maria Novella, an historic church that has been the site of several major events. It is the location where Galileo was first accused of heresy and contains a wealth of Renaissance masterpieces.
Writer Jon Rogers has proposed that May’s choice of venue was a call for reason and co-operation, saying, “Florence indicates ‘it is time to reconnect, it’s time to go back to your roots. To work out what really matters… [Politicians] go there when they want to show they are Europeans, when they want to show they understand the meaning of this continent and the Renaissance.'”
One commentator reflected on the artwork present in the church and wrote, “Masaccio’s 1428 fresco of the Trinity is credited with being the first painting in the history of art to use perfect mathematical perspective – another neat metaphor for what Mrs May is trying to achieve with her speech.”
The city was also the site of the Council of Florence, convened to help heal the Great Schism between East and West.
May’s spokesman, however, says the issue is more pragmatic: “Florence was a city ‘known for its historical trading power’ when the Italian Renaissance was seen as the ‘cradle of capitalism’ and the city’s trading links were supported by a strong banking system.”
Whatever the exact intentions were, the choice to hold the speech at such an historic Catholic Church was significant, especially by a Protestant Prime Minister. May presented her speech at a time when her country is severely polarized and greatly in need of direction. Her speech aims to pave the way forward and allow for a easier transition that recognizes the time needed to create a proper solution.