'The time will come when Britain regrets Brexit', warns Jean-Claude Juncker

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To do so is an insult to the people of Northern Ireland, who have worked so hard to bring peace to our country.

"The idea of punishing Britain is not the language of a club, it's the language of a gang", he said at the annual conference of the British Chambers of Commerce.

Britain says the implementation period will give businesses certainty heading into next year, as the rest of Britain's future relationship with the European Union is yet to be agreed upon.

Both Britain and the European Union have vowed to avoid the return of customs checks to the border and an interim deal in December left some flexibility on the issue, but an European Union text putting the agreement into law has sparked a fresh row with London. Discussions over the relationship are set to intensify over the coming months and are earmarked to conclude by the fall to give parliaments time to assess any deal.

In the speech May suggested Britain would commit to keeping some European Union regulations and standards while reserving the option to diverge in others.

Goldman Sachs and UBS said last week they were starting to transfer some bankers to Frankfurt in preparation for the U.K.'s exit from the EU.

He did not want European Union citizens to "fall victim to Brexit", he said, saying it was important to secure their rights.

"The reality on the ground today is that firms can't make their next move until they know what the state of play will be from March 2019", said Cherry.

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But he warned that the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic could be a major roadblock to sealing a deal.

But running through the three options for Northern Ireland, Juncker - who was flanked by the EU's Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier and his former Chief of Cabinet Martin Selmayr - said it was up to the U.K.to come up with a workable solution that would avoid the need for a hard border.

"It should come as no surprise that the only remaining possible model is a free trade agreement", European Council President Donald Tusk said in his statement upon publishing the guidelines, refusing much of the vision that May had shared in her Manson speech.

"Provided the United Kingdom government is able to provide more specific information then we can decide what steps to take", one said.

The section on the Irish border was broadly unchanged in the latest draft.

If Britain stays in a form of a customs union it would reduce the costs for both sides by about half, the report said.

Foster also took aim at those warning about the impact on the peace process.

Criticizing the European Commission's "bad faith" on the border issue, Foster hit out at the view of Brussels leaders that not accepting proposals for keeping the border open would encourage a return of terrorism - which, she said, was tantamount to a threat.