(CNN)British Prime Minister Theresa May sought to kick start Brexit negotiations on Friday, proposing to delay the impact of the UK's withdrawal from the EU with a two-year transition period.
Theresa May proposes to delay Brexit impact with 2-year transition period
In return for continued access to the EU single market, the UK would honor its budget commitments of about 10 billion euros (about $12 billion) year, remain bound by EU laws and accept continued immigration from Europe.
But May said the transition should be "strictly time-limited" and replaced as soon as practicable by a bespoke, "creative" partnership that would respect the result of last year's EU referendum.
UK and EU leaders share a "profound sense of responsibility" to make the process work "smoothly and sensibly" for this and future generations, she said at the Santa Maria Novella church in Florence, Italy.
"The eyes of the world are on us, but if we can be imaginative and creative about the way we establish this new relationship, if we can proceed on the basis of trust in each other, I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the United Kingdom and for the European Union," she said.
The top EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, welcomed the "constructive spirit" of the speech but warned that Britain would have to accede to all existing EU rules and oversight to retain access to the single market during any transition period. "The speech shows a willingness to move forward, as time is of the essence," he said.
Transitional arrangements: May conceded that the Britain would not be ready to implement a Brexit deal when the UK formally leaves the EU in March 2019. A transition period would also be required for the UK to conclude a trade deal with the EU.
To ease the process, May proposed a transition of about two years, during which the EU and UK would have access to each other's markets on current terms, retaining the "existing structure of EU rules and regulations."