The EU's chief Brexit negotiator has stressed that he wants a "great deal" and that he is ready to start talks with the UK as Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on Wednesday (29 March).

The French politician and former EU commissioner Michel Barnier made the remarks as the two-year-long Brexit negotiations begin.

"I am ready. I want to succeed, I want to get a deal," he told the Financial Times . Barnier, who will lead the EU Commission's task force, also met with Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat in Valletta. "This is day one of a very long and difficult road," he told Muscat.

EU Council President Donald Tusk has promised to reply to the UK's Article 50 notification – hand-delivered by Britain's EU diplomat Sir Tim Barrow – within 48 hours.

A summit of the other 27 EU leaders is scheduled in Brussels for 29 April.

The leading European politicians will use the meeting to decide on the negotiating guidelines for Barnier, who will report to European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.

"When I sit around the negotiating table in the months ahead, I will represent every person in the whole United Kingdom – young and old, rich and poor, city, town, country and all the villages and hamlets in between," May told MPs on Wednesday.

"And yes, those EU nationals who have made this country their home. It is my fierce determination to get the right deal for every single person in this country."

She added: "We all want a nation that is safe and secure for our children and grandchildren. We all want to live in a truly Global Britain that gets out and builds relationships with old friends and new allies around the world.

"These are the ambitions of this government's Plan for Britain. Ambitions that unite us, so that we are no longer defined by the vote we cast, but by our determination to make a success of the result."