Britain, EU kick off Brexit negotiations

Andrew Cummings
June 20, 2017

The first formal negotiations took place just short of a year after British voters narrowly made a decision to leave the European Union, which was long a source of love-hate angst in British politics.

But he said that Monday morning's terror attack in London and the devastating fires in Portugal reminded him that "there is more that unites us than divides us". Uncertainty over the future trading relationship also means that special status in the talks has been given to discussions on how to limit the impact on peace in Northern Ireland from the creation of a new EU-UK border with the Irish Republic.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

"This first session was useful", Barnier said.

Monday's talks however are likely to focus on the practical details of timings for the coming months, with the big, divisive issues left aside for now, officials said. Both sides will immediately put top advisers to work on a border agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom, aiming to make sure the Irish peace agreement and the common travel area will be as unaffected by the U.K.'s European Union departure as possible.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted past 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.

Even when May triggered the two-year unraveling process in March, she followed it up by calling an early election June 8 that she had hoped would strengthen her majority in parliament, and thus her negotiating mandate with the EU.

"I think the whole process will lead to a happy resolution which can be done with honour and profit to both sides", Johnson said as he went into a separate meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Luxembourg.

Johnson also urged Europeans to look farther down the road.

"The most important thing I think now is for us to look to the horizon, think about the future, and think about the new partnership, the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends". "We are talking about a confidence and supply agreement with them", she said.

"We want to leave the door open to the British", German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Germany's Welt am Sonntag newspaper in remarks published Sunday. He said he hoped for a "soft Brexit", which would leave many trade and immigration ties in place.

A senior German official is stressing that the European Union doesn't want to punish Britain for leaving, but says its departure will not be good for the United Kingdom or the rest of the EU.

The issues at stake are daunting.

May plans to present European Union leaders on Thursday with a proposal that would detail British plans for European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom, according to the Times of London, which said the draft would be "generous". "The United Kingdom has chose to leave the European Union, it is not the other way around". European demands for British restitution have also increased, from $67 billion a few months ago to $112 billion now, a measure of the degree of E.U. toughening against British Prime Minister Theresa May. A good deal for the European Union would be a bad deal for the UK.

At stake in hugely complex talks that are expected to conclude by March 2019 is not just Britain's future but a western political order that would be badly shaken by a failure to reach a deal.

But British society has remained deeply divided about the meaning of the Brexit vote and the extent to which leaders should pull out of wide-ranging relationships that have delivered prosperity and frustration to generations of British citizens.

Britain's trying to play a weak hand in the talks.

Information for this article was contributed by Raf Casert of The Associated Press and by Michael Birnbaum of The Washington Post.

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