UK prime minister Theresa May yesterday called for a two-year transition after Brexit in which the UK would largely continue to retain its current ties with Brussels, in a charm offensive intended to unlock stalled negotiations with the EU.
Speaking in Florence, May promised to meet the UK's existing EU budget commitments until 2020 and outlined new legal guarantees for the rights of around three million EU nationals living in the UK.
She also committed to maintaining the security of Europe, telling EU leaders, "We want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU and UK thrive side by side."
A fourth round of negotiations with the EC will start next week, with London keen on making progress on the terms of the separation to allow the talks to move on to trade.
"While the UK's departure from the EU is inevitably a difficult process, it is in all of our interests for our negotiations to succeed," she said.
May sought a transition period after Brexit in March 2019 of "around two years" during which "access to one another's markets should continue on current terms" for the UK and the EU.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, has welcomed Theresa May's speech as ''a step forward''. He stressed though that Brussels would have many questions for the UK side about the ''concrete implications'' of her words at the fourth round of Brexit talks next week.
''The speech shows a willingness to move forward,'' he said, after the prime minister ruled out the ''have cake and eat it'' approach to negotiations favoured by leading Brexiters, The Guardian reported