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UK, EU Take Contrasting Messages From May's Brexit Speech

European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said the "days of U.K. cherry-picking and Europe a la carte are over."

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    UK, EU Take Contrasting Messages From May's Brexit Speech
    AP
    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May gestures as she delivers a speech on leaving the European Union at Lancaster House in London, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017.

    British Prime Minister Theresa May's promise of a clean but friendly exit from the European Union drew strikingly different responses Wednesday: optimism in Britain, skepticism on the other side of the English Channel.

    Buoyant British officials hailed May's aim of "a bold and ambitious free trade agreement with the EU" alongside new trade deals between the U.K. and other nations.

    Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that countries were "already queuing up" to make deals.

    But European officials poured cold water on U.K. optimism about a smooth, mutually beneficial Brexit.

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    European Parliament Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt said the "days of U.K. cherry-picking and Europe a la carte are over."

    Swedish EU Affairs Minister Ann Linde said May had made it "very clear that she wants a very hard Brexit" and anticipated difficult negotiations ahead.

    Uncertainty surrounds other aspects of May's speech — including her promise of a vote for Britain's Parliament on the deal struck with the EU.

    May and Brexit Secretary David Davis both declined to answer outright when asked what would happen if lawmakers rejected it.

    "They won't vote it down," Davis told the BBC. "This negotiation will succeed."

    Britain's mostly Euroskeptic newspapers, meanwhile, seized on May's suggestion Britain could hurt the EU economically if the bloc imposed a punitive deal.

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    The Times of London headline said "give us fair deal or you'll be crushed," while the Daily Mirror summarized May's message as "give us a deal ... or we'll walk."

    European newspapers saw the speech as evidence of Britain turning inwards.

    Germany's Die Welt ran the front-page headline "Little Britain." In a nod to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, Italy's La Repubblica said: "London gets its wall."