Britain, EU kick off Brexit negotiations

Barnier said they wanted to agree on the "main principles of the key challenges of the UK's withdrawal as soon as possible", including Britain's exit bill, the rights of European Union citizens in Britain and the future of Northern Ireland.

But speaking after six hours of talks with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, Davis confirmed the United Kingdom now accepted the European approach.

"Ultimately, if the Government is really out to get the best deal for Britain, they must be open to compromise on more than just the timetable of the talks, and start putting our economic prosperity at the heart of their negotiating strategy", he said.

"We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit", Mr Barnier added. Britain, he insisted would avoid EU's attempts at time pressure "at every turn". "The position we have agreed today is completely consistent with our long-standing position we have set out on article 50".

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

The bloc would first seek to reach an agreement on European Union citizens rights, the UK's departure bill, and the future border between the Republic of Ireland, an European Union member, and Northern Ireland, a British region.

They said discussions would be split into three stages: citizen rights, the single financial settlement and other separation issues. They will be tasked with exploring and testing options that will then be submitted to the top negotiators for their political blessings.

The working language of the negotiations will be English and French, with interpretations provided by the European Commission.

The EU is looking for detailed guarantees on the status of EU citizens in the United Kingdom and is prioritising the delicate problem of the Irish border.

He said: 'We're determined to get on with the job and deliver certainty as soon as possible. The top European Union negotiator, Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister of France, gave Davis a walking stick from his home region in the Alps.

Mr Davis and the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier, a former French foreign minister and European Union commissioner, will give a joint press conference at the end of the day.

Davis said Britain hadn't backed down.

The difficulty, and potential acrimony, of the Brexit process could however be felt.

Ms May, whose future is uncertain after she lost her Conservative majority in an election this month, has insisted that trade talks start immediately and run in parallel.

"Even if we are forced to leave the Single Market, retaining membership of the Customs Union remains an absolute priority for my organisation, as it does across the agricultural sector".

Barnier said he was hoping to have a clearer timetable by the end of the day.

In addition to the one-day talks, British Prime Minister Theresa May will be in Brussels later in the week for an EU Council summit. Davis gave Barnier a book about hiking.

Anticipating the challenges in the months ahead, both referenced fellow countrymen who defended their visions.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Davis said in response: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty".

  • Leroy Wright