Theresa May plans to break Brexit deadlock

May will outline her plans in a speech in Florence, Italy, in which she will call for European negotiators to be more “imaginative and creative” in their efforts to reach a deal.

She is likely to commit Britain to continue paying into the European Union budget in return for continued access to its tariff-free market for a limited period, according to multiple British media reports.

She will argue that Britain would be able to use the transitional period — likely to be about two years — to strike trade deals with other nations, avoiding the “cliff-edge” Brexit that UK businesses fear. The UK currently pays about 10 billion euros (about $12 billion) each year.

May hopes that her speech will satisfy demands from the European Union for clarity on Britain’s position, as well as placating the “hard-Brexit” wing of her Conservative Party, who are adamantly opposed to any arrangement that looks like ongoing EU membership in all but name.

‘Bold new partnership’

In a statement, Downing Street said May would use her Florence speech to “discuss a vision for a bold new economic and security partnership and set out the Prime Minister’s plan for a time-limited implementation period, offering certainty and clarity to businesses and citizens.”

May will urge negotiators to redouble their efforts to conclude a deal. “While the UK’s departure from the EU is inevitably a difficult process, it is in all of our interests for the negotiations to succeed,” she will say, according to extracts released in advance by Downing Street.

“I believe we share a profound sense of responsibility to make the change work smoothly and sensibly, not just for people today but for the next generation who will inherit the world we leave them.”

“The eyes of the world are on us but if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship … I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom and for the European Union.”

The pace of Brexit negotiations has so far frustrated EU and business leaders.

The third round of talks ended last month in a very public dispute over how much Britain should pay in a divorce settlement, an issue the EU says must be resolved before the parties’ future trading relationship — Britain’s key concern — can be discussed.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier and UK Brexit Secretary David Davis at the first round of talks.
Divisions have also emerged within May’s government. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appeared to undermine her position just last weekend with a 4,000-word article in the Telegraph newspaper setting out his own Brexit vision.

May chaired a cabinet meeting Thursday in London at which she outlined her proposed settlement offer to the EU. Johnson and Chancellor Philip Hammond, who have disagreed on the approach to Brexit, were pictured leaving the meeting together, in an apparent show of unity.

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, right, departs 10 Downing Street with UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson after a Cabinet meeting on Thursday.

EU: ‘Settle the accounts’

The European Union’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said Britain needed to make its position clear on a financial settlement.

Speaking Thursday, he said that the EU would consider a “short transition period”, but it would mean accepting EU rules, including on the budget.

Barnier told the Italian parliament in Rome that, with little more than a year to go before a Brexit deal must be completed, there was still “major uncertainty” in key areas.

He said it was vital for Britain to accept its financial obligations. “All that is necessary in this negotiation is that everyone honors the commitments that they have made to each other. To settle the accounts. No more, no less,” he said.

Barnier called for “clear commitments” from the UK government on outstanding issues.

Juncker pulls Europe away from Brexit Britain

“From our side, I repeat once again that an agreement is the best outcome. It is in our common interest. But if we want a deal, time is of the essence,” he said.

After last month’s talks, Barnier complained of “no decisive progress” in the negotiations and accused Britain of attempting to secure the “impossible” in its efforts to leave the EU’s single market while retaining its benefits.

The fourth round of Brexit talks is due to start Monday in Brussels.

David Davis, secretary of state for exiting the EU, wrote in an opinion piece for CNN that the talks had been “constructive” while showing the need for “more flexibility” if a good deal was to be reached for all sides before Britain leaves in March 2019.

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