May Embarks on Day-Long U.K. Tour to Gauge a Divided Country

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May is touring the U.K. on Thursday to gauge the mood of the country a year before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.

The prime minister will start her Brexit tour at a textile factory in western Scotland, before heading to Newcastle in northern England, where she’ll meet with a parent and toddler group. Then she’ll have lunch with farmers near Belfast, Northern Ireland, before going to Barry in southern Wales for a round table with businesses. She plans to round off the day by having tea in West London with a group of Polish citizens.

“I am visiting all four nations of the union to hear from people across our country what Brexit means to them,” May said in a statement. “I am determined that as we leave the EU, and in the years ahead, we will strengthen the bonds that unite us, because ours is the world’s most successful union.”

May’s visit -- exactly a year after she triggered the 2-year Brexit process -- is the first time since the eve of last year’s general election that she’s toured the four nations that make up the U.K.

She may not like what she hears. A Bloomberg investigation that included 133 interviews of Britons around the country found that divisions have only hardened since the 2016 referendum between those who wanted to stay in the EU and those who voted to leave.

Scotland, Wales

May is struggling to secure the support of the devolved administrations of Wales and Scotland to her vision of Brexit. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her Welsh counterpart, Carwyn Jones have said they can’t support May’s key piece of Brexit legislation in its current form, calling it a power grab by the central government in London.

May said her government is committed to devolution accords for the U.K.’s nations and that those powers will increase with Brexit.

“As we leave the EU, powers will return from Brussels to the parliaments and assemblies of the U.K., closer to the people we all serve and with greater ability to deliver for their needs,” she said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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