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

Britain Kicks Off Brexit Talks With European Union

Britain Kicks Off Brexit Talks With European Union

While Britain has struggled to agree on and present a coherent list of demands, the 27 European Union nations have had one message all along - in the words of Barnier on Monday: "We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit".

The BBC has been told by European Union sources that the talks will follow the EU's preferred pattern of exit negotiations first, with the future relations between the two sides - including the free trade deal the United Kingdom is seeking - at a later date.

But while citizens' rights and the UK's financial settlement with the European Union will be left to technical teams of officials, "a dialogue on Ireland/Northern Ireland has been launched under the authority of the Co-ordinators", according to the terms of reference for Brexit talks. Both sides want transparency to be the default. They will use the time in between to work on proposals and exchange them. But Ireland, he said, "is right at the top of priorities".

"The protection of the Good Friday agreement and the maintenance of the Common Travel Area are the most urgent issues to discuss", said Barnier, adding that "concrete and imaginative" solutions will be required to control goods and services without creating a hard border. With or without a deal, Britain will be out of the European Union on March 30, 2019.

Mr Davis chose a quote from Winston Churchill: "The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity".

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Still, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson remained upbeat on Monday and thinks that the Brexit negotiations will yield "a happy resolution that can be done with profit and honor for both sides".

He promised to "work with the United Kingdom, not against the UK". The Irish issue, long described as a priority for both, will be treated somewhat differently; avoiding a "hard border" will necessarily have to take account of how the rest of EU-UK trade will work.

The UK will publish a detailed paper on Monday "outlining an offer" on citizens' rights, Mr Davis said, which he hoped would lead to a swift agreement. Britain already appears to have capitulated to the EU's insistence that talks first focus on three key divorce issues, before moving onto the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.

The EU leaders would discuss progress at their October meeting.

Barnier and Davis will have a week of negotiations each month, while the other three weeks will be used for preparations and working out the details.

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Mr Davis denied suggestions the agreed timetable showed Britain's "weakness" and insisted it is "completely consistent" with the Government's aim of parallel trade and exit talks.

"We will negotiate fairly", Gabriel was quoted as saying.

Mrs May has repeatedly refused to guarantee European Union citizens' rights until agreement is reached with Brussels over the future of British citizens living in Europe.

"So now that the negotiations have started, we are determined to get on with the job and deliver that certainty as soon as possible".

Mr Davis returned the favour with a signed copy of Regards vers l'Annapurna. May herself will also have a chance to update the other 27 European Union leaders on her Brexit plans at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. "If you like walking in the mountains", he said, "you have to learn a certain number of rules". In mid-May, he claimed: "You can't decide one without the other". And you have to keep looking at the summit, the outcome. After a private one-on-one meeting, the pair went to lunch with four senior officials, dining on Belgian asparagus, red mullet and meringue cake with strawberries.

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It was followed by mocha coffee and cakes.

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