Britain says Brexit talks to start Monday

Still trying to shore up her authority after last week's election calamity injected new uncertainty into Britain's path to leaving the European Union, May is sending her Brexit Secretary David Davis to Brussels on Monday to launch the process with EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

When asked if she was in floods of tears on Friday, Davis told ITV's "Good Morning Britain" show: "Not when I saw her. The Prime Minister's inflexible approach to these matters makes a good deal for Britain less likely, not more likely".

His role will be to "develop and negotiate free trade agreements and market access deals with non-EU countries", they said in a statement, suggesting that the government plans to leave the single market following Brexit.

Put together, May's case for a hard Brexit is extraordinarily weak - something that negotiators in Brussels will see coming before Davis and his team have a chance to step off the Eurostar train.

"As we enter negotiations next week, we will do so in a spirit of cooperation, taking a pragmatic approach, trying to find a solution that works both for the United Kingdom and the European Union 27", he told reporters before a meeting of the 28 EU finance ministers in Luxembourg.

Hammond's comments Friday come a day after he cancelled a keynote address to London financiers in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster, in which the death toll is expected to rise from 17.

European Union officials acknowledge that the agreements to be reached before Britain leaves in March 2019 can only be concluded as a whole package simultaneously but leaders have barred Barnier from talking about trade before he gets outline deals on the rights of expatriate citizens and how much Britain owes the EU.

Prompted by her poor election showing, particularly among pro-EU young people who fear losses of jobs and opportunity for Brexit, some of her most senior ministers and two former Conservative prime ministers have called for a rethink.

Michel Barnier, the EU's top negotiator, and Oliver Robbins, the permanent secretary for the department for exiting the European Union, met over lunch in Brussels, along with Tim Barrow, the UK's envoy to the EU.

Mr Barnier has said he wants to wrap up a Brexit deal by October 2018 so it has time to get through national parliaments and the European Parliament in time for Britain's departure from the bloc at the end of March 2019.

European Union officials played down the importance of Britain's lack of a clear final plan, saying that talks on other issues can go ahead without deciding yet on a new relationship.

The Commission statement said: "The opening of negotiations at political level next week will focus on issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks".

"We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

  • Leroy Wright