Edited excerpt of May's letter to European Council head

Dear President Donald Tusk,

On June 23 last year, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. As I have said before, that decision was no rejection of the values we share as fellow Europeans. Instead, the referendum was a vote to restore, as we see it, our national self-determination. We are leaving the EU, but we are not leaving Europe - and we want to remain committed partners and allies to our friends across the continent.

Today, therefore, I am writing to give effect to the democratic decision of the people of the United Kingdom. I hereby notify the European Council in accordance with Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union of the United Kingdom's intention to withdraw from the EU.

Looking ahead to the discussions which we will soon begin, I would like to suggest some principles that we might agree on to help make sure that the process is as smooth and successful as possible.

• We should engage with one another constructively and respectfully, in a spirit of sincere cooperation. Since I became Prime Minister of the UK, I have listened carefully to you, to my fellow EU heads of government and the presidents of the European Commission and Parliament. That is why the UK does not seek membership of the single market: We understand and respect your position that the four freedoms of the single market are indivisible and there can be no "cherry picking".

• We should always put our citizens first. There are, for example, many citizens of the remaining member states living in the UK and UK citizens living elsewhere in the EU, and we should aim to strike an early agreement about their rights.

• We should work towards securing a comprehensive agreement. We want to agree on a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU, taking in both economic and security cooperation.

• We should work together to minimise disruption and give as much certainty as possible. In order to avoid any cliff edge as we move from our current relationship to our future partnership, people and businesses in both the UK and the EU would benefit from implementation periods to adjust in a smooth and orderly way to new arrangements.

• In particular, we must pay attention to the UK's unique relationship with the Republic of Ireland and the importance of the peace process in Northern Ireland.

• We should begin technical talks on detailed policy areas as soon as possible, but we should prioritise the biggest challenges. Agreeing on a high-level approach to the issues arising from our withdrawal will of course be an early priority. But we also propose a bold and ambitious free trade agreement between the UK and the EU.

• We should continue to work together to advance and protect our shared European values. Perhaps now more than ever, the world needs the liberal, democratic values of Europe.

The task before us is momentous, but it should not be beyond us. After all, the institutions and leaders of the EU have succeeded in bringing together a continent blighted by war into a union of peaceful nations, and supported the transition of dictatorships to democracy.

Together, I know we are capable of reaching an agreement, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity, security and global power of our continent.

Yours sincerely, Theresa May

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2017, with the headline 'Edited excerpt of May's letter to European Council head'. Print Edition | Subscribe