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British PM calls for post-Brexit unity in 2017

PM Theresa May has urged Britons to be united in 2017 after a year of divisive politics and the Brexit vote. In her Christmas message, she said Britain needed to seize the opportunity to forge a new role outside the EU.

In a Christmas message, Prime Minister Theresa May said Saturday that Britain must unite after its decision to leave the European Union and look forward to 2017 as a year of opportunities.

Britain experienced bitter divisions after the June referendum, in which 52 percent of people voted for the country to exit the EU.

May, who succeeded David Cameron as prime minister after the Brexit vote, said in her message that "coming together is also important for us as a country."

"As we leave the European Union we must seize an historic opportunity to forge a bold new role for ourselves in the world and to unite our country as we move forward into the future," May said in her first Christmas message as prime minister.

The Supreme Court is set to rule in January on whether the British parliament's approval is needed for May to trigger the exit process.

May's plan

May wants to start formal Brexit negotiations with the EU by the end of March. The process would then take two years to complete.

But the premier hasn't revealed much about how she intends to carry forward her Brexit plan, saying it would be foolish to show her cards before the start of negotiations with the EU.

"It is absolutely right that we do not set out at this stage every single detail of our proposed negotiating strategy, because that would be the best way to get the worst possible deal for Britain," May told parliament when asked whether she had a coherent plan.

British media reported that the Queen was "disappointed" by May's refusal to share Brexit plans with her in private talks between the two.

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Scotland insists on staying in EU Single Market after Brexit

Earlier this week, the Scottish government unveiled plans to stay within the EU single market after the UK triggers Brexit. Prime Minister May criticized the Scottish proposal and said some of the proposed measures might be "impractical."

'Hard' or 'soft' Brexit

Earlier this month, EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said at a news conference in Brussels that time will be short for Britain.

Barnier also cited four principles for the negotiations: the 27 member states would remain united; there would be no negotiations before the UK triggered Article 50; Brexit could not be a better deal than staying in the EU; and the UK could not keep full market access while refusing to accept freedom of movement from the EU.

"This will be the atmosphere in which we will be conducting our negotiations with the UK and the sooner the better," he said. "We are ready; keep calm and negotiate."

Asked about debate in Britain on how much market access the country will retain - coined as a "hard" or "soft" Brexit - Barnier said: "Frankly, I do not know what a hard or a soft Brexit are ... I can say what a Brexit is: ... We want a clear agreement; we want to reach this agreement in the limited time available. We want it to take account of our point of view."

shs/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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