British Prime Minister Theresa May says the country’s decision to leave the European Union will not affect ties with EU partners, calling for a stronger cooperation.
May made the remarks at a joint press conference with her Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, at Villa Doria Pamphilj in Rome on Wednesday.
“The UK is leaving the EU, but we will continue to strengthen ties with our European friends. Outside of the EU, the UK and Italy will continue to cooperate through NATO, the G20 and the G7,” said the British premier.
She added that the UK “will continue to be a strong voice for international free trade.”
Renzi said Britons’ decision to leave the bloc during a referendum on June 23 served as a blow to 600,000 Italians living there.
According to May, their rights will only be respected if the rights of Britons in other EU countries are guaranteed.
“Italian and other EU citizens who are living in the UK – I want to be able to guarantee their rights in the UK. I expect to be able to do that. I intend to be able to do that, to guarantee their rights. The only circumstances when that would not be possible would be if the rights of British citizens living in other EU member states were not guaranteed. But, I hope this is an issue that we can address early on.”
The British prime minister asserted that she looked at EU ties “with an open mind,” suggesting she would adopt a utilitarian approach in cooperation with Europe.
“I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union, not adopting necessarily a model that is on the shelf already but saying what is going to work for the UK and what is going to work best for the European Union.”
In regard to Brexit, Renzi said a “clear timeline” was necessary to launch Article 50, which will formally begin the exit process.
May, however, reiterated for Brexit to be implemented more time is need so that all parties could work out the “nature of our relationship”.