Brexit talks to begin amid post-election fallout in Britain

Davis and Barnier both admitted the Irish border question dominated the first negotiating session, but there did seem to be progress on the issue of European Union citizens' rights.

Brexit negotiators will discuss Monday Britain's financial obligations to the European Union as the long, complicated and potentially perilous process of the United Kingdom leaving the bloc finally gets underway.

Northern Ireland's border with the Republic and the bill for Britain's previous European Union commitments will also be high on the agenda, Mr Barnier said.

The U.K. and the European Union started talks on Britain's exit from the bloc Monday morning, nearly a year after the U.K. voted to leave, with EU chief negotiator saying he hoped the two sides can start removing the uncertainties created by that decision.

Reflecting on Britain's longtime European Union membership, Davis says that "there is more that unites us than divides us" despite the June 23, 2016 referendum in which Britain made a decision to break away from the 27 other member nations. "We need to bring back to Britain control of our laws and control of our borders", he said.

"Then in the second step, we scope our future partnership; we also agree on how we structure our tools".

Only when "sufficient, concrete progress" on the first phase has been made will Barnier recommend to the European Council that the negotiations can enter the next stage, taking in the future trading relationship, with that recommendation possibly coming at October's summit of EU leaders.

They exchanged gifts - a walking stick from Barnier's native Alps for Davis, a French mountaineer's memoir in a valuable first edition from the Briton to the Frenchman. Our aim is to have one week of negotiations every month.

"A fair deal is possible and far better than no deal", the French former European Union commissioner said. Given that the EU's chief negotiator previously warned Brexit would be a "steep and a rocky" path, the choice seemed apt.

Until now, British prime minister Theresa May had insisted that both discussions should be held in parallel.

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.

The Conservative Party now lacks a parliamentary majority and is talks with Northern Ireland's DUP on forming a minority Government.

Echoing Barnier, British Brexit minister David Davis applauded the "very productive discussions", saying, "I've been encouraged by the constructive approach that both sides have taken".

"But it has nothing to do with the negotiations in the House of Commons", he said in reference to the ongoing government-forming talks in London.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed", he said, using a line also expressed by the EU.

"The best start would be to abandon the unsafe idea that we could leave the European Union with no deal at all, which would be the worst possible outcome for jobs and living standards in this country".

With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens' rights, though the two sides are some way apart.

And just over a month ago, Mr Davis said dealing with the issue of how the talks would unfold would be the "row of the summer".

The UK government and European Union officials will now discuss the residency rights of European Union nationals in the UK and Britons on the continent, followed by a so called Brexit bill, which could see the UK pay €100bn to Brussels, and other other issues will be discussed further down the line.

Mr Barnier said: "There is a very, very sensitive political dimension to this".

  • Leroy Wright