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Theresa May Florence speech: PM told to provide greater clarity on terms of UK exit

Video report by ITV News Europe Editor James Mates

Theresa May must provided greater clarity over the terms of the UK's exit from the European Union if she wants to break the deadlock in the stalled Brexit talks, the French President has said.

Speaking in Paris in response to the Prime Minister's keynote speech in Florence, Emmanuel Macron said that while he welcomed Mrs May's "willingness" to move forward, more progress was needed on the rights of EU citizens in Britain, the border with Ireland as well as the so-called "divorce settlement".

"Before we move forward, we wish to clarify the issue of the regulation of European citizens, the financial terms of the exit and the question of Ireland," he said.

"If those three points are not clarified, then we cannot move forward on the rest."

In her speech on Friday, Theresa May said the UK should have a Brexit transition period of "around two years" as it breaks away from the EU.

The proposals would see Britain continue to remain within the common market and bound by EU rules even after it formally exits the bloc.

European nationals would continue to be able to "live and work" in the UK under a registration scheme during the implementation period, she said.

The Prime Minister called for a "imaginative and creative" approach to divorce negotiations on both side as she tried to break the deadlock over talks with a major speech in Florence.

Mr Macron's comments echoed those of the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier who welcomed the "constructive spirit" of her speech but said her assurances needed to be translated into a "precise negotiating position".

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Mrs May had ruled out both a Canadian-style trade deal and formal membership of the EEA trading bloc, saying she believed that a bespoke agreement could be found.

The speech also included a pledged that Britain would honour its financial commitments so no country would have to "pay more or receive less" over the remainder of the current budget period which lasts up to 2020.

Credit: PA

Mrs May said an implementation period for Brexit would be in the "mutual interest" for both sides in her speech.

"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," she said.

"So during the implementation period, access to one another's markets should continue on current terms and Brit should also continue to take part in current security measures."

There would be a "clear double lock" to the implementation period, she said, giving businesses the certainty to plan for change and a guarantee that the temporary transitional arrangements "will not go on for ever".

British Brexit secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. Credit: PA

Mrs May acknowledged that Britain would not be able to remain in the single market whilst also limiting immigration.

"We do not pretend that you can have all of the benefits of the single market without having its obligations," she said.

She said the UK is in an "unprecedented" position as it unwinds its affairs from Europe as she called for all sides to avoid a "stark and unimaginative" choice between a Canadian-style trade deal on one hand or EEA membership on the other.

"We can do so much better than this," she said.

"Let us not merely to seek to adopt a model already enjoyed by other countries.

"Instead, let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedom and principles of the EU and the wishes of the British people."

Credit: PA

Mrs May stressed common links between Britain and the EU in her speech today as she pushed for faster progress on an agreement.

Her speech also included proposals for a "bold new strategic agreement" with the EU on security co-operation.

She also said that UK courts should be able to take into account judgments of the European Court of Justice.

"Of course, we recognise that we can't leave the EU and have everything stay the same. Life for us will be different," she said.

"But we do want, and what we hope that you our European friends want too, is to stay as partners who carry on working together for our mutual benefit."

Boris Johnson praised the speech as 'optimistic and dynamic'. Credit: PA

The much-anticipated speech was praised by members of Cabinet, including Boris Johnson, who was caught up in a row after producing his own Brexit blueprint days before Mrs May's speech.

The EU's lead Brexit negotiator Mr Barnier praised the "constructive spirit" of the speech but warned that it must now be followed by formal agreements on some of the technicalities of a deal.

However, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: "Fifteen months after the EU referendum the Government is still no clearer about what our long term relationship with the EU will look like."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said Mrs May was admitting the UK will have to pay a "hefty Brexit bill" totalling several billion pounds.

He said: "Both the Conservatives and Labour have now essentially converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay the economic pain caused by an extreme Brexit.

"Neither are prepared to fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union or to offer people a chance to exit from Brexit."