Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Britain eyes Brexit deal 'like no other in history'

But the turmoil of the euro zone crisis, fears in Britain about immigration and a series of miscalculations by former Prime Minister David Cameron prompted Britain to vote by 52 to 48 percent for Brexit in a June 23 referendum previous year.

He wouldn't be drawn on whether he supported Britain's continued membership in the single market and said Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government will negotiate in a "pragmatic" manner, striving for a solution that works for both sides.

Mrs May, under pressure after losing her ruling Conservatives' majority in a botched snap election and over her response to the Grenfell Tower blaze in London, says she wants a clean break with the European Union - a strategy some in her party have challenged as risking economic growth.

The agreed schedule will let May make a presentation over dinner of how she sees her Brexit plans. "I think it will not actually make as dramatic a difference as people think". She promoted one of them, Damian Green, a longtime ally, to first secretary of state and kept in place Philip Hammond, the chancellor of the Exchequer, whom she had meant to fire, according to news reports.

Asked if that meant no transitional arrangements, she replied: "Well, I'm extremely optimistic that we will find there is a lot we can agree on".

The newspaper quoted another former minister as saying: "If she weakened on Brexit, the world would fall in. all hell would break loose".

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The Chancellor's words are in stark contrast to the bullish message sent out by the government's Brexit department ahead of Monday's talks.

There is lots of talk about what Philip Hammond wants, and how he might seek to "soften" Brexit.

A spokesman for his Department for Exiting the European Union said Britain had been "crystal clear" about its approach.

However, it faces the prospect of delivering a Queen's speech while still thrashing out a deal with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party.

The Conservatives now have only 317 MPs in the 650-seat House of Commons and need the support of the DUP s 10 MPs to command a razor-thin majority.

She is also trying to contain outrage at home over a London tower block fire which left at least 30 people dead. Summit chair Donald Tusk and the other leaders will not respond before May leaves the room to let the 27 discuss their own Brexit strategies.

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For that reason, Brussels wants as a priority to guarantee rights for 3 million European Union citizens in Britain and be paid tens of billions of euros it says London will owe on its departure.

Now perhaps is the time for the British government to re-evaluate its Brexit strategy, in consultation with the other political parties, and consider remaining in the single market, which would be greatly welcomed by businesses and would mean that the United Kingdom will remain fairly integrated into the European Union, just like Norway.

Her stance has attracted criticism from senior Tories including Lord Hague and Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson, who last week urged May to change tack.

Working groups will be set up to focus on three key areas - the status of EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU; the divorce bill for Britain; and the future of the Northern Irish border with EU member Ireland.

But Monday's talks will seek mainly to tie down the timing, with the European Union suggesting monthly cycles over the summer.

The negotiations have been billed as the most complex in Britain's history as it unravels 44 years of membership and its threat to walk out with no deal in place has anxious European capitals.

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The EU wants to secure the rights of more than three million Europeans living in Britain - and over one million Britons living on the continent.

The start of the negotiations comes as work continues across the British government to prepare Britain for life outside of the EU.

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