Britain will continue to pump cash into the EU budget for up to two years after Brexit , Theresa May signalled today as she delivered her crunch speech in Florence.

The UK’s new relationship with the EU could be delayed by an extra two years after the Prime Minister outlined plans for a transition deal.

An “implementation period” could last “around two years” following the UK’s withdrawal in March 2019, she said.

During the transition, “access to one another’s markets should continue on current terms”, added the PM.

That suggests unlimited EU migration could continue until 2021.

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In a bid to kick-start stalled withdrawal negotiations, she confirmed the UK would continue to send cash to Brussels.

While she did not make specific promises, it could mean taxpayers forking out another £18billion for the EU after we leave.

Saying she did not “want our partners to fear they will pay more or receive less”, she pledged: “The UK will honour commitments we have made during the period of our membership.”

And the UK would also make an “ongoing contribution” for specific Brussels programmes, she suggested.

Attempting to smash the blocked talks, Mrs May told guests she plans to bring her offer on the rights of EU citizens into UK law.

But European judges will still have a reach over Britain, the PM conceded.

UK courts would “be able to take into account the judgements of the European Court of Justice with a view to ensuring consistent interpretation”, Mrs May warned.

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She insisted the UK would leave the single market and customs union, but, in comments which signalled Britain is ready to give ground, she said: “We do not pretend you can have all the benefits of the single market without its obligations.”

She ruled out membership of the European Economic Area, and did not want a trade deal similar to the EU/Canada pact which began this week.

“We can do so much better than this,” she said.

“Let us be creative as well as practical in designing an ambitious partnership.”

A new arrangement should not be monitored by either British courts or the ECJ, she said.

“It wouldn’t be right for one party’s court to have jurisdiction over the other,” the PM insisted.

But she was confident the EU and UK can “find an appropriate mechanism for disputes”.

Mrs May delivered the speech in a disused police barracks next to the Santa Maria Novella basilica in Florence.

About 30 protesters demonstrated in the piazza in front of the church next door to where the Prime Minister delivered her key speech, lasting XX minutes.

Chancellor Philip Hammond, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Brexit Secretary David Davis were in the audience for the PM’s speech.

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The PM flew out from RAF Northolt this morning on board a BAe 146 plane for the 750-mile journey.

After touching down two-hours and 15-minutes later, she was driven into the Renaissance city in a black Maserati.

Pictures showed her gripping the door’s grab handle as the limo sped through town before her big moment.

Speaking in front of a bland grey backdrop with the slogans “Shared history, shared challenges, shared future”, she hailed co-operation between the EU and UK on tackling a “vast array of challenges”, including mass migration, fighting terrorism and disrupting jihadi networks.

Warning it was “a critical period in the history of the UK’s relationship with the EU”, she admitted that for some people it was a “worrying” time while for others it was an “exciting time full of promise”.

Wearing a black jacket, black top and chunky silver necklace, the PM added: “This will be a defining moment in the history of our nation.”

“We share a profound sense of responsibility to make this change work smoothly and sensibly,” she told guests.

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“The eyes of the world are on us.

“But if we can be imaginative and creative in the way we establish this relationship… I believe we can be optimistic about the future we can build for the UK and the EU.”

She insisted “concrete progress” had been made during four months of crunch talks between British and EU negotiators.

She hoped Britain would be the EU’s “strongest friend and partner as the EU and UK thrive side by side”.

But, explaining why 52% of voters backed Brexit in last June’s referendum, Mrs May said “the United Kingdom has never quite felt at home in the EU”, and stressed: “The EU is beginning a new chapter in the story of its development.”