As EU’s 'strongest partner and friend' Theresa May says the UK needs a two-year Brexit transition period

Pound dips against the dollar

In a landmark Brexit speech in Florence today, Prime Minister Theresa May proposed that existing market arrangements would continue to apply during a two-year period after Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

May said that UK would stay as EU’s “strongest partner and friend” and continue to “honour its commitments” under the bloc’s current budget. The speech in a 14th-century church in Italy today was aimed at breaking the deadlock in Brexit talks, due to resume on Monday. 

May stated: “Clearly people, businesses and public services should only have to plan for one set of changes in the relationship between the UK and the EU.

“So during the implementation period access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms and Britain also should continue to take part in existing security measures. And I know businesses, in particular, would welcome the certainty this would provide…” 

While Theresa May did not say how much the UK would be prepared to continue to pay into the EU after Brexit, it has been estimated to be around £18bn. She also indicated that freedom of movement would continue during the transition but workers coming into the UK would have to go through a “registration system”.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has praised May’s 5,357-word speech today for being “positive, optimistic and dynamic.” The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, also welcomed May’s “constructive” tone and said she indicated “a willingness to move forward”.  

There were corresponding reports of Sterling dipping against the dollar and the euro today after May’s speech failed to give any concrete details for how Britain might retain preferential access to Europe’s single market.

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