World

Have a two-year transition period after Brexit: May

FLORENCE: Prime Minister Theresa May called yesterday for Britain to stay in the European Union's (EU) single market during a roughly two-year transition out of the EU.

She offered concessions on a divorce deal as she appealed for a revival of Brexit negotiations.

In a speech at a 14th-century church in Florence, Mrs May spent much of the speech drawing on the similar values of Britain and the rest of the EU.

She said if the complicated talks to unravel more than 40 years of union should fail, the only beneficiaries would be those who oppose democracy, liberalism and free trade.

But her concessions on her vision for a two-year transition period on Britain's current membership terms, final financial settlement and legal protection of EU citizens' rights when Britain leaves in March 2019 may still fall short of what the EU said was needed to move the negotiations forward.

The pound weakened about half-a-penny against the euro and three-quarters of a cent against the US dollar during her speech, underlining the sensitivity of the talks to markets and firms, some of which fear Britain could crash out of the bloc without a deal.

"For 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 told an audience of Italian business leaders and diplomats.

"If we were to fail or be divided, the only beneficiaries would be those who reject our values and oppose our interests."

Mrs May's speech comes during a crucial week for Europe.

On Sunday, German voters are expected to return conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel to power but also send Eurosceptic parties into Parliament, including the Alternative for Germany whose nationalist, anti-immigrant ideas echo those of Britain's Ukip party, a driving force behind Brexit.

Two days later, French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to flesh out his ideas for a "relaunch" of the EU and euro zone, underscoring the bloc's determination to press ahead with a closer union that excludes the UK. - REUTERS

BREXITunited kingdomeuropean union