Despite asking for a greater mandate to conduct critical talks with the EU, the Prime Minister would not offer any more insight on the difficult compromises she will have to make to win a deal from Brussels.
Instead she claimed voters could simply look at her record to ascertain what kind of country she will shape, if they entrust her with an election victory on June 8.
In a major interview as Parliament was due to give its backing for the election, Ms May denied her move to call a vote was motivated by political “opportunism” and historically good polls that could deliver a landslide victory.
She argued it was an appeal for the British people to put their trust in her on Brexit, but then in the same interview refused to give more detail about exactly what she wants out of a negotiations.
Asked if her manifesto would guarantee that in 2020 the UK would be clear the European Court’s jurisdiction and EU free movement, she said only that UK will be ensuring “we negotiate the best possible deal”.
Pressed on exactly what that meant, she said: “I’ve already spelt out the Brexit prospectus, I’ve already spelt out in the speech I gave in Lancaster House in January this year, we followed that up with the White Paper, that was followed of course by what was put in the letter I sent to the European Union for triggering Article 50, of the sort of relationship we want to have with the EU.”
Challenged again over the lack of specific detail so far, she said: “With due respect it’s not seeking a blank cheque when I say to people look what we’ve done already, look what we’ve delivered as a Government already, look at the modern industrial strategy we’re working on, look at policies that we have and the aims that we have in terms of a good school place for every child. Look at the we are making in terms of technical education for young people.”
The Prime Minister said she was committed to regaining control of Britain's borders, but refused to be drawn on whether free movement of labour would end as soon as the UK withdrew from the EU.
She said: “What people want is for us to have control of our borders. I am very clear that we want migration at sustainable levels.
“What we will now have when we leave the European Union is the ability to have control in relation to people moving to the UK from the European Union.”
If May wins the election it means she will no longer have to face the electorate in 2020, just as the country has had to make difficult compromises to secure a deal, but instead later in 2022.
Asked about whether that had motivated her, she explained that she needed a mandate to ensure Brexit legislation could not be scuppered in Parliament and that the UK had a stronger hand in Brexit talks.
She added: “I genuinely came to this decision reluctantly, having looked at the circumstances, and having looked ahead at the process of negotiation.
“I want this country to be able to play the strongest hand possible in those negotiations to get the best possible deal because that's in our long-term interests.
“That's what this is about, it’s about asking the people to trust me, to trust us in government, to give us that mandate to go and get that really good deal for the UK.”
While Ms May reaffirmed her commitment to give Parliament a vote on any deal with the EU, she flatly ruled out a second referendum.
“There will be no second referendum. The British people voted last year to leave the European Union. We have taken that key step of triggering Article 50. The process is in motion. There can be no turning back,” she said.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies