Britain, EU launch Brexit talks in Brussels

Andrew Cummings
June 20, 2017

Brexit Secretary David Davis has said Britain will seek "a deal that works in the best interests of all citizens" in Brexit talks getting under way in Brussels.

After the initial shock of last year's Brexit vote and faced with rising anti-EU sentiment, the bloc at 27 appears to have steadied in recent months and got a real boost with the election of new French President Emmanuel Macron in May. The top European Union negotiator, Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister of France, gave Davis a walking stick from his home region in the Alps.

Describing the negotiation as exceptional, Barnier denied to give further details on how he will secure the transparency of talks.

Those were, he said, the rights of expatriate citizens and problems of a new EU-UK border, notably cutting across Ireland.

It is expected talks will take place once a month in Brussels as they work through the issues to be resolved. Davis insisted that talks about trade would occur "in parallel", but Barnier said they would start only in a second phase.

"It's been a year since the referendum".

She had hoped to strengthen her government's hand in the negotiations by holding a snap election this month and solidifying the hold of her Conservative Party on the parliament. However, other senior figures have threatened to force a vote of no confidence in her leadership if the plans are watered down.

Poll finds majority support for a softer Brexit.

Davis said both sides were "off to a promising start" even though the challenges ahead were daunting.

"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. "But we are definitely ready for it because Europe is weaker without the British but I think the British would also be weaker without us Europeans". Finally he claimed the negotiations would offer "a revolution" which would solve a longstanding issue in British politics.

The Chancellor told BBC One's Andrew Marr Show he would not agree to a deal that would "destroy" Britain.

It highlights deep divisions between the United Kingdom and the EU's approach to talks, especially on the sequencing of the negotiations, with the United Kingdom wanting to sort out the financial settlement in parallel with an agreement on future relations. EU leaders want May to lay off threats that she would walk out and leave a chaotic legal limbo for all Europeans. Davis and Barnier, who chatted in English over lunch but used interpreters for some of their more serious talks, made use of their shared love of hill-walking to lighten the mood.

May had promised to take Britain completely out of the bloc's common trading area and slash the number of people coming from the EU.

How often will the two sides be meeting?

"We keep hearing only what they don't want, but we don't have any picture of what future relations will look like".

However, Europe says that an agreement on issues such as the rights of citizens, the divorce bill and border controls must come before considering any post-Brexit settlement.

Davis, taking up the historical theme, quoted British wartime leader Winston Churchill. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. "And so bridging between Churchill and Monnet, I am certainly a determined optimist".

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