Brexit talks begin in Brussels

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 20, 2017

"Today we agreed on dates, we agreed on organization and we agreed on priorities for negotiations", Barnier told a joint press conference with British counterpart David Davis.

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis, second left, participate with their teams in a round table meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017.

Davis said both sides were "off to a promising start" even though the challenges ahead were daunting.

A bigger problem may be for British negotiators to resolve what trade relationship they want. Both sides will put top advisers to work immediately on a border agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom, aiming to make sure the Irish peace agreement and the common travel area should as unaffected by Britain's European Union departure as possible. He noted the European Union wants to discuss divorce terms before moving on to the shape of its future relations with Britain.

This morning the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, also signalled an upbeat shift in the government's tone of voice about the talks, which need to be concluded by March 2019 when Britain is due to leave the EU.

Davis said Britain's negotiating position had not changed as a result of his Conservative Party's poor showing in recent elections.

The EU says Britain can't leave without settling its bill, paying up for all its commitments that are still ongoing, including projects that might reach into the next decade, as well as the U.K.'s share of EU staff pensions. "But they'll find a different European Union than the one they left, an European Union with no special wishes, concessions and unnecessary complexity, but with more powers for Europe".

May is now seeking backing from the DUP, a Northern Irish party, for her minority Conservative government after she lost her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election.

Britain started formal talks to leave the European Union today, seeking a deal "like no other in history" despite entering deeply hard negotiations through a badly weakened government. The UK wants trade deal talks to run at the same time.

However, EU leaders are also said to be determined not to allow concessions to Britain that might encourage others to quit.

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", another European source said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel - one of the key players of the European Union - is standing for re-election in Germany.

"I would like us to get a good agreement that is in both sides' interests".

Despite this signal that the United Kingdom was willing to compromise, Hammond insisted on reiterating the threat that the country would not be manipulated by the EU.

Many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.

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