FOR months the EU has been demanding realistic proposals from Britain for its future economic relationship with the bloc. In her big speech at London’s Mansion House today, dubbed “Our Future Partnership”, Theresa May was meant to give some answers. The prime minister duly called for a trade deal that is deeper and more comprehensive than any other the EU has with non-members. It was her most detailed Brexit speech yet, as well as her most realistic. She warned that “no-one will get everything they want”—a statement of the obvious, perhaps, but one which some Brexiteers have been reluctant to acknowledge. Yet critics around the EU are still likely to complain that her speech lacked specifics and that, although she denied the charge of cherry-picking, which she said applied to all trade deals, she is still in fact doing it.

In an echo of the five tests that Gordon Brown, as chancellor, set in the 1990s to determine whether Britain should join the euro, Mrs May set out five tests for Brexit. These are that it should respect the result of the referendum, which she interprets as taking back control of borders, laws and money; that the agreement must endure, so it does not involve endless negotiation; that it must protect people’s jobs and security; that it must be consistent with Britain’s desire to be a modern, open and outward-looking democracy; and that it must strengthen the country’s union of nations. Yet these tests are much woollier and vaguer than Mr Brown’s were, making it harder to assess if they have been passed—and easier for Mrs May to claim in virtually any circumstances that they have.

Besides her tests, Mrs May also explained her plan for “managed divergence” from EU regulations. She repeated her red lines that Britain must leave the EU’s single market and customs union (she talked vaguely of a customs “arrangement” instead), as well as the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. But she was more open than before about the trade-offs these decisions involve, accepting that the red lines will mean less access for Britain to the EU’s market, and vice versa. Even so, her divergence plan will not be easy to get past the EU.

Her proposal would divide trade into three baskets. The first, which would include trade in goods such as cars and chemicals, would be subject to a strong commitment to adhere to the single market’s rules. She even said she wanted Britain to remain associated with several EU regulatory agencies, which may rile some hard Brexiteers. In the second basket, which would include many services, Britain would diverge over time from EU regulations, even though it might try to deliver similar standards to allow mutual recognition. And for the third basket, which would contain many new areas of as-yet little-regulated technology, such as artificial intelligence, Britain would go its own way.

Mrs May also reiterated her determination to avoid going back to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. But she made clear that she rejected the legal proposal put forward this week by the European Commission, which would keep Northern Ireland in a customs union and in full alignment with single-market regulations. Such an arrangement would threaten to create a border in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and the British mainland. Instead, she wants the trade deal with the EU to be sufficiently deep that, helped by smart electronics and new technology, it can avert the need for any physical infrastructure, checks or controls at the Irish border. Most experts doubt this will work.

Although her tone was more pragmatic and conciliatory than in the past, her speech will still not go down that well in Brussels. Even before she had spoken, the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, dismissed her regulatory plans as “pure illusion”. He made clear that he disliked Mrs May’s red lines. And he insisted that leaving the single market and customs union was, by definition, incompatible with Britain’s aspiration of frictionless trade. Next week he will propose draft guidelines for the negotiations on future trade relations. They are not likely to be helpful to the British government’s negotiating aims.

The belief in Brussels remains that, unless Mrs May blurs her red lines a lot more, she cannot expect a trade deal that is significantly better than the EU’s one with Canada, which covers most goods but barely any services, and which would imply a hard border in Ireland. Mrs May’s speech may have united her cabinet and may even unite her own Conservative Party in Parliament. But it will not do a lot to make the Brexit negotiations in Brussels easier.