Theresa May Seeks to Unlock Brexit Talks in Florence Speech

In light of the continuing standoff, many businesses worry about a “cliff edge” scenario, in which Britain would crash out without a deal, so Mrs. May is under pressure to find a way out of the impasse.

Speaking in Florence on Friday, Mrs. May did not say precisely how much money Britain would continue to contribute to the European Union. But she made a significant promise that the British — who are big net contributors to the bloc — would not leave a hole in the union’s budget in 2019 and 2020.

“I do not want our partners to fear that they will need to pay more or receive less over the remainder of the current budget plan as a result of our decision to leave,” Mrs. May said.

That would probably mean payments of around 20 billion euros, or about $24 billion, after Britain’s departure. It would also effectively maintain the status quo for the duration of a two-year transition period, meaning that Britain would allow the free movement of European workers and accept rulings from the European Court of Justice.

This alone is unlikely to be enough to satisfy the 27 other member nations, but Mrs. May hinted that she would be willing to go further and “honor commitments we have made during the period of our membership.”

In addition, Mrs. May proposed a security partnership with the European Union, stressing Britain’s importance as a defense power, and also offered new legal safeguards to guarantee the rights of European Union citizens in Britain after Brexit.

Over all, Mrs. May sought to stress the common interest London shares with continental European capitals in reaching an agreement and avoiding disruption to trade, wrapping her offer in dialogue that was more positive, and less antagonistic, than that of some previous interventions.

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Protesters in Florence, Italy, on Friday before Mrs. May’s speech.

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Max Rossi/Reuters

European Union negotiators have refused to talk about post-Brexit ties until they judge that there is “sufficient progress” on the issues they consider a priority: the status of European Union citizens in Britain after it leaves, the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is a part of the United Kingdom) and Britain’s financial commitments to the bloc.

“I think it is definitely a net plus in terms of moving it forward” said Mats Persson, who was a…

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