British Prime Minister Theresa May says a deal on Britain's exit as a European Union trading partner could be "a defining moment in the history of our nation."
She spoke Friday in Florence, Italy, ahead of a fourth round of talks on Britain's departure from the 28-member grouping of European nations.
A number of top British officials were in the audience at the historic Catholic church of Santa Maria Novella, located in the cultural heart of Europe but no European leaders attended the speech.
May used the speech to reassure EU leaders that Britain's exit will not result in added financial burdens for the European Union.
"The UK will honor commitments we have made during the period of our membership," she said.
She added that Britain wants to continue working together with the EU in ways that promote long-term economic development in Europe. As examples, she mentioned programs that promote science, education, culture, and mutual security.
The British leader emphasized that Britain will continue to work with the rest of Europe on defense, saying, "our commitment to the defense and indeed the advance of our shared values is undimmed. Our determination to defend the stability, security, and prosperity of our European neighbors and friends remains steadfast."
May also said that European citizens working in Britain will be subject to a registration system during a two-year transition period as Britain withdraws from the EU. She called the plan "an essential preparation for the new regime."
The prime minister said she is optimistic about the future, despite the upheaval exiting the European Union might cause.
Explaining the move, she said, "throughout its membership, the United Kingdom has never totally felt at home being in the European Union. And perhaps because of our history and geography, the European Union never felt to us like an integral part of our national story, in the way it does to so many elsewhere in Europe. It is a matter of choices."
Britain's formal departure from the European Union is set for March 29, 2019, with the proposed two-year transition period to follow. Talks on the issue resume on Monday.
On Thursday, May met with her cabinet ministers for more than two hours to finalize Britain's position.
Tense discussions have taken place over crucial issues such as the amount Britain must pay to settle its financial commitments to the bloc and the status of EU citizens in Britain, among others.
The tensions among cabinet ministers exploded into public view last week when Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson outlined his own vision for life outside the European Union. He argued for a sharp break with the bloc, a stance that dismays moderates who fear that will wreck Britain's relations with the world's biggest trade bloc.