So it begins: Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

Remigio Civitarese
Giugno 20, 2017

The longtime advocate of Britain quitting the European Union was a natural choice to lead the British government's new department overseeing the Brexit talks.

Only once the EU27 determine that "sufficient progress" has been made on these issues will talks be able to progress to a second phase, where the two sides will begin to scope out the future of their relationship.

But the agreement appeared at odds with British Prime Minister Theresa May's earlier insistence that the divorce and the future relationship should be discussed in parallel.

When interviewed in Luxembourg last week he twice failed to confirm that Britain would leave the single market. On the opposite side is Michel Barnier, the French former foreign minister who is the European Commission's chief negotiator.

Officials said Mr Davis was "very, very confident" and "optimistic" about the negotiations.

Roth said that "Brexit is a very, very hard operation" and there's only a bit over a year to negotiate it.

Finance minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that it was still the plan to quit not only the EU but the customs union and single market as well.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted a year ago to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so.

A key issue he did not mention was the EU's bill for Britain to leave, which Brussels estimates at a colossal 100 billion euros.

Before the United Kingdom general election just over a week ago, British prime minister Theresa May was talking tough, signalling that "no deal was better than a bad deal" - but this rhetoric has evaporated after her party lost their parliamentary majority.

Britain's political instability has caused concerns in European capitals hoping to get the negotiations over with quickly and cleanly, as has May's oft-repeated threat to walk away from the talks without a deal if necessary.

"No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain, but there is a possible worse outcome and that is a deal that is deliberately structured to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time", he said. Instead, after a disastrous General Election showing, she finds herself chasing a damaging deal with controversial allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The talks will be in English and French, they said in a joint statement.

Those issues are Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros (USD 112 billion), the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Brexit talks are officially underway.

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, another European source said.

But Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, are also determined not to make concessions to Britain that might encourage others to follow.

Yet 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. And hours before British negotiators sped across the English Channel to Brussels to begin the talks, British leaders were still arguing about what precisely to demand from the European Union in a process that must conclude by March 2019.

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