- Theresa May to deliver her landmark Brexit speech in Florence this afternoon.
- The speech is expected to set out a “generous offer”, including continued payments into EU budgets.
- May expected to call for a “time-limited” transition period of around two years.
- Conservative backbenchers angered by prospect of continued payments.
LONDON — Theresa May will on Friday afternoon open the door to Britain paying tens of billions more pounds to the EU, as she delivers what aides describe as a “generous offer” to the EU.
The prime minister is expected to say that the UK will fill the hole in EU budgets left by Britain’s exit until at least 2021, two years after Brexit.
She is also expected to call for a “time-limited” transition period lasting around two years and to set out further plans for the rights of EU citizens living in the UK to be enshrined in law after Brexit.
“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 will say in a speech in Florence at around 14:15 (BST).
“So I believe we share a profound sense of responsibility to make this change work smoothly and sensibly, not just for people today but for the next generation who will inherit the world we leave them.”
May’s offer of around €20 billion, which is designed to restart the negotiations which had stalled over the UK’s so-called divorce bill, falls well short of EU expectations which are up to five times this figure.
EU negotiators are refusing to discuss the nature of Britain’s future relationship with the EU until Britain makes “significant progress” on the divorce bill.
However, even this offer is likely to prove controversial with Conservative backbenchers. Leading Eurosceptic Tory MP Peter Bone told Sky News this morning that “any divorce bill will be too much for me…
“If there’s going to be any divorce bill, which is a very strange idea, then it should be to us.”
The speech, the content of which was agreed by Cabinet on Thursday, is designed to offer an inspirational message about Britain’s future outside the EU, following criticism from some quarters, including inside her own cabinet, that the PM has failed to set out a positive vision for Brexit.
“The eyes of the world are on us but if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship,” she will say.
“I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom and for the European Union.”
The PM will add that “Britain’s future is bright,” before saying that: “our fundamental strengths are considerable; a legal system respected around the world; a keen openness to foreign investment; and enthusiasm for innovation; an ease of doing business; some of the best universities and researchers you can find anywhere; an exceptional national talent for creativity and an indomitable spirit.”
She will add: “If we can do that, then when this chapter of our European history is written, it will be remembered not for the differences we faced, but for the vision we showed; not for the challenges we endured but for the creativity we used to overcome them; not for a relationship that ended but a new partnership that began.”
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will not attend the speech, but is expected to deliver his own response shortly afterwards.
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