Britain, EU launch historic Brexit talks in Brussels

Claudine Rigal
Juin 20, 2017

Speaking in advance of the start of what are expected to be largely procedural Brexit talks about talks and their scheduling on Monday morning Mr Hammond said "no deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain".

The hardline faction, which includes Brexit Secretary David Davis, Defense Secretary Michael Fallon and Environment Secretary Michael Gove, wants a clean break with the European Union in order to regain full control over Britain's borders and do trade deals with non-EU countries.

In Brussels today, Davis used much more conciliatory language, and said: "While there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens".

"The only possibility of a soft Brexit is if the European Union itself fundamentally changes, if the European Union allows member states to reclaim more control over their destiny, which is something I've advocated for many years".

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.

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

"Business groups can help with the negotiations over trade, which is the model every other Government involved in trade negotiations operates, and we need to be brought in quickly to do this".

"We want both sides to emerge strong and prosperous, capable of projecting our shared European values, leading in the world, and demonstrating our resolve to protect the security of our citizens".

While the European Union negotiating team led by Barnier has been ready for months, British efforts on Brexit stalled even after it triggered the two-year process on March 29.

Mr Barnier's insistence on sticking to the EU's priorities for the negotiations comes after Mr Davis appeared to soften his stance on the schedule for the talks.

The talks begin amid uncertainty on the United Kingdom government's intentions after British voters appeared to reject its so-called hard Brexit manifesto in a snap election on 8 June, when the ruling Conservative Party lost its majority in parliament.

Mr Davis also brushed off the idea Britain's negotiating stance could change given political instability in the UK.

In carefully choreographed talks that even saw the two men exchange mountaineering gifts, they agreed to discuss divorce issues before negotiations on a future trade deal can start. Barnier has said talks on a trade deal can not even start until sufficient progress has been made on the other issues.

So far Theresa May has refused to unilaterally guarantee the residency rights of EU nationals living in Britain until the EU agrees reciprocal rights for Britons living in other EU countries.

May herself will also have a chance to update the other 27 European Union leaders on her Brexit plans at a summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

But Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, are also determined not to make concessions to Britain that might encourage others to follow.

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