Finally, Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

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21 June, 2017

Mr Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, said he sought quick and substantive progress in what is scheduled to be a two-year negotiation before Britain leaves the EU.

Nearly a year after British voters took the decision to leave the bloc, Davis took a team of officials to open the negotiations with Barnier in the European Commission's Berlaymont building on Monday. The appointment of both senior officials to the Irish portfolio was a measure of how centrally the sides saw the issue, according to Mr Davis and Mr Barnier.

The U.K. and the European Union started talks on Britain's exit from the bloc Monday morning, nearly a year after the U.K. voted to leave, with EU chief negotiator saying he hoped the two sides can start removing the uncertainties created by that decision.

"Third, it may show that the United Kingdom (unlike in May) is less able to negotiate the UK's future trade relationship with the European Union, as the the United Kingdom government since the election does not have an agreed position".

The two sides agreed to focus first on three top priorities: the issue of European Union citizens' rights in Britain, border agreements between Britain and Ireland, and how much Britain will pay to unravel its membership of the 28-nation bloc after 44 years.

A bigger problem may be for British negotiators to resolve what trade relationship they want.

Frenchman Barnier struck a firm tone as he said the timetable for Britain's divorce after four troubled decades of membership made sense.

Opponents of Brexit seized on the EU's success in imposing its timetable for the talks as evidence of the UK's weak negotiating position.

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Mr Davis rejected the suggestion this amounted to a climbdown by the United Kingdom, arguing that trade negotiations would take place in parallel with those on the arrangements for withdrawal at a later stage. Despite the government's posturing, the European Union was clear today it has not made a single concession to David Davis. Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted previous year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so - in a shock referendum result.

Talks in Spain are expected to include the thorny issue of Gibraltar after the EU's guidelines for talks suggested the disputed territory's future economic status might be subject to a veto from Madrid. May, whose future is uncertain after she lost her Conservative majority in an election this month, has insisted that trade talks start immediately and run in parallel.

"The risk of the exit negotiations with Britain is that we do not take adequate care of our own future". They will use the time in between to work on proposals and exchange them.

Top negotiators Barnier and Davis have declared the talks have gotten off to a "promising start". The EU is not so keen, as it seems to think this offers it some leverage over the UK.

"In the first step, the negotiation rounds will be broken down into three groups - citizen rights, the single financial settlement, and other separation issues".

But EU 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 quit.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: "We called last week for the major parties to put aside their differences and work together to establish a common negotiating position on Brexit". Both the European Union and Britain said earlier this year that they want to keep it that way after Brexit.

The Brexit Secretary gave a glimpse into the first day of talks, saying more time had been spent discussing Ireland than any other issue.


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