Theresa May has said the government "will deliver" on free movement controls following the UK's decision to leave the EU last month. The British prime minister made the remarks during a press conference with her Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, earlier today (27 July).
"We had a very clear message from the British people in the Brexit vote that they want us to bring in some control on free movement, they don't want free movement rules for movement of people from the European Union member states into the UK to operate as they have done in the past," said May. "And we will deliver on that."
While immigration is a priority, the PM added that she is keeping an "open mind" to maintain strong economic ties with the EU. "We do of course need to ensure that we get the best possible deal in relation to trade in goods and services," said May.
"And I am looking at this with an open mind, I think we should be developing the model that suits the United Kingdom and the European Union, not adopting necessarily a model that's on the shelf already," she added.
As Britain looks to map out its departure from the EU, May added that preparations are already underway for an "orderly" procedure. Part of that includes clarifying the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and vice versa, early on.
"For Italian and other EU citizens 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," said May.
"The only circumstances in which 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 that this is an issue that we can address early on."
Underlining the close trading relationship between Britain and Italy, May said: "On Brexit, we have agreed on the importance of maintaining the closest possible economic ties once the UK leaves the EU.
"Italy is the UK's eighth largest export market and trade in goods alone was worth £24bn last year."
While both leaders gave positive signals that Brexit will be successful, Renzi called for a specific timeline to be laid out. "It's in everybody's interest to succeed in the end, to succeed in having a vision or a specific timeline which will make this pass easier," he said.
"Of course we are saddened by this and we, to a certain extent, understand the public opinion," Renzi added. "It's a decision that was made by the British people and we respect it, however painful it is. Now we have to deal with it with common sense."