Published: Tue, June 20, 2017
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Britain and European Union agree terms of reference and timetable for Brexit talks

Britain and European Union agree terms of reference and timetable for Brexit talks

Brexit minister David Davis and the EU's negotiator Michel Barnier held their first meeting in the European Commission building, while their teams discussed organisational issues.

The talks at the European Commission's headquarters kicked off just shy of a year after the Brexit referendum, when U.K. voters chose to leave the EU by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, and almost three months after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter formally triggering the withdrawal process. "First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of European Union policies and the impact on borders, in particular Ireland".

That the British were ready to break negotiations down on the lines of priorities identified by Brussels implied, he said, a willingness to start a first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to a second phase on the new free trade relationship Ms May wants - a "sequencing" London has disputed.

"We launch negotiations in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves and our European allies and friends in the future".

Mr Davis had previously said not settling both elements simultaneously would be "the row of the summer".

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Monday will just be the first day of what will be more than 18 months of talks.

Mr Varadkar said: "We spoke about the very important need for both governments to be impartial actors when it comes to Northern Ireland and that we are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement and that any agreement that may exist between the Conservatives and the DUP should not in any way impact on the Good Friday Agreement".

With Prime Minister Theresa May still working to shore up a deal with a small Northern Irish party to prop up her Conservative government after she lost her parliamentary majority in the June 8 election, Hammond's comments could be a sign that London is easing its approach to Brexit.

After the Conservatives lost their majority in the House of Commons in the 8 June general election, prompting calls for May to soften her line on Brexit, Davis made clear on Monday that the United Kingdom would leave the EU, but also the single market and the custom unions - the so-called hard Brexit.

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The others have ruled out letting Ms May negotiate in person with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and others.

"As the European Union has itself said, 'nothing is agreed until everything is agreed'".

A year after Britons shocked the continent by voting on June 23 to cut loose from their main export market, new debate within Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet on precisely what kind of trading relationship to pursue has perplexed European Union leaders, who warn time is tight to agree terms before Britain leaves in 2019. "And fair means that we want to keep the British as close as possible to the European Union - but never at the price that we divide the remaining 27 European Union states".

But Britain says it has been "crystal clear" that both withdrawal and future relations should be agreed at the same time.

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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Barnier has warned that the negotiations must be wrapped up by October 2018 to allow time for all parties to ratify a final accord by March 2019.

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