Issue of UK-Irish Border Most Discussed at Brexit Talks - Davis

Claudine Rigal
Juin 20, 2017

Brexit negotiations have finally begun in Brussels, nearly a year to the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union.

The smiles belied the fact that at stake is not just Britain's future but also Europe's postwar political order and its place in the world, which could be fatally undermined without an agreement by the March 2019 deadline.

However, in a press conference following the first day of Brexit talks, European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier revealed that Davis had accepted the EU's original demands.

Theresa May will present her plan for securing the rights of European Union citizens in the United Kingdom and Britons living in Europe at a meeting of European Union heads of government on Thursday.

Davis's agreement to Monday's agenda led some European Union officials to believe that May's government may at last coming around to Brussels' view of how negotiations should be run.

May's government said it was "confident it can achieve a bold and ambitious deal that will work in the interest of the whole U.K".

Mr Davis told reporters earlier: "We are starting this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone".

Speaking in Brussels, Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, made clear where the power lay in the talks when he said Britain had bowed to the EU's demands for two phases. "In coordination with Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk, the intention is to be in an unusual way, transparent", said Barnier, as both the European Commission and European Council presidents will take part in informative talks with the EU member states. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "If we don't succeed, both sides will lose".

"My clear view - and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain - is that we should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity as we enter into negotiations", he said.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted a year ago to end their country's four-decade membership in the 28-country bloc - the first nation ever to do so. "There is more that unites us than divides us".

The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials VDMA, says that that goal of the two-year negotiating process is "damage limitation" because Brexit won't benefit either side.

May was hoping to increase her support in the British election on June 8, but instead her party lost its outright majority and now has to try to form a workable government with a tiny party from Northern Ireland.

First, "significant progress" would need to be made on the EU's priority issues, notably the rights of expatriate citizens and a settling financial accounts.

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.

"We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit, we want to make sure that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom happens in an orderly manner, then in a second step we will scope our future partnership", the French politician said.

David Davis concedes that trade talks can not begin before Brexit divorce talks.

"Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland has taken more time today than anything else".

While "Brexiteers" have strongly backed May's proposed clean break with the single market and customs union, finance minister Philip Hammond and others have this month echoed calls by businesses for less of a "hard Brexit" and retaining closer customs ties. "We hope we can get a reasonable and fast resolution".

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