Britain, EU to discuss Brexit issues in July, September and October

Claudine Rigal
Juin 20, 2017

Chief U.K. negotiator David Davis is meeting his European Union counterpart, former French foreign minister Michel Barnier, to grapple with a complex set of questions about the future of trade and migration, how much the country must pay to settle its bill with the bloc, and the rights of millions of citizens who have settled in Britain or Europe.

He said he hoped that during their single day of talks, he and Mr Davis would be able to identify priorities and a timetable, so that he can report back to leaders of the other 27 EU states at the European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday that there had been a "constructive opening of negotiations".

Jon and Dan also discuss how the election has changed things in Brussels, plus the key issues of the article 50 divorce talks - sequencing, citizens' rights, the border in Northern Ireland, and the UK's exit bill - with the Guardian's correspondent there, Jennifer Rankin.

The two chief negotiators, Michel Barnier of the European Union and David Davis from Britain, immediately set off to find common ground in their working relationship, an important touchstone to see how amicable the biggest political divorce in decades will become.

"So 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", he added.

"The most important thing 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", the Foreign Secretary said as he went into a separate meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

"I do not know which particular line of approach is being made by the Government because they are in complete division, so I think actually removing this Government and allowing a Labour government, if necessary a minority government, to come into place would give us clear direction on all of this".

Merkel spoke after meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, who also stressed the 27 European Union countries' unity. An early election this month, in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority, only added to the problems.

Mr Davis said that while there was a long way to go - a conclusion is due by March 2019 - the negotiating teams had got off to a "promising start; we have taken the first, critical steps together".

Talks will begin at 0900 GMT with a joint press conference by former French foreign minister and European commissioner Barnier and Davis at around 1630 GMT.

May officially triggered the two-year Brexit process in March when she was riding high in opinion polls, and called for fresh elections shortly afterwards to shore up her mandate for a tough Brexit stance.

Ever since the United Kingdom invoked Article 50 in March, triggering its formal intention to leave the EU, the European side has said it was ready to begin negotiations.

Threats by Britain to walk away without a deal have anxious European capitals.

Political leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron, hope that no concessions will be made to Britain, as this might encourage other countries to follow suit.

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, another European source said.

But he warned that "we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge".

If the United Kingdom opts for a Brexit in which it leaves the Single Market and the Customs Union, the Irish border would become a closed border unless negotiators can agree on creative solutions.

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