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May tries to reboot Brexit

Britain is prepared to abide by European Union rules and pay into the bloc's coffers for two years after leaving the EU in March 2019, Prime Minister Theresa May said Friday in a conciliatory speech intended to revive foundering exit talks.

The proposal got a positive, if muted, reception from the EU's chief negotiator. But it raised hackles among pro-Brexit U.K. politicians, who accused May of delaying a divorce that is sought by a majority of British voters.

May travelled to Florence, Italy, in hopes of rebooting negotiations with the EU that have stalled over issues including the price the U.K. must pay to leave and the rights of EU citizens in Britain.

May's speech was intended to kick-start the process before talks resume next week in Brussels. But while it was strong on praise for the EU and for shared European values, the few concrete details were far from addressing Brussels' concerns.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the speech showed a "constructive spirit" but "must be translated into negotiating positions" to make real progress.

Standing in front of a backdrop reading "Shared History, Shared Challenges, Shared Future" in a hall at a Renaissance church, May said Britain and the EU share "a profound sense of responsibility" to ensure that their parting goes smoothly.

She urged the EU to be "creative" and forge a new economic relationship not based on any current trade model. She rejected both a free-trade deal like the one Canada has struck with the bloc and Norway-style membership in the EU's single market.

She called instead for "an ambitious economic partnership which respects the freedoms and principles of the EU, and the wishes of the British people."



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