Finally, Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

At stake in hugely complex talks that are expected to conclude by March 2019 is not just Britain's future but a western political order that would be badly shaken by a failure to reach a deal.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz says: "If we don't succeed both sides will lose".

The EU's chief negotiator, France's Michel Barnier, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a handshake and smiles for the press in the European Commission's landmark headquarters in central Brussels flanked by the EU and British flags.

He said it would also have to accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, "or at least a joint court that is staffed by Europeans and Britons" and in principle follows the ECJ's rulings.

"In testing times like these we are reminded of the values and resolve we share with our closest allies in Europe", he said, referring to the latest reported terror attack overnight in London and the loss of lives in forest fires in Portugal.

Davis said he was looking for a "positive and constructive tone" to deal with the myriad issues dividing both sides.

Brexit negotiations start Monday, after British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her parliamentary majority in an election meant to strengthen her hand.

Davis - who earlier said that he was hoping to negotiate a "deal like no other in history" - said the United Kingdom was looking for "a new, deep and special partnership with the EU".

"The most important thing I think 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".

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted previous year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so - in a shock referendum result.

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

The occasion marks the start of Brexit negotiations after Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the mechanism that officially notifies the European Union that a country wishes to leave the 27-member bloc - on March 29 and set a two-year negotiations period in motion. "The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", another European source said. She is seeking an arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland.

  • Leroy Wright