So it begins: Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis, second left, participate with their teams in a round table meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017.

The BBC has been told by European Union sources that the talks will follow the EU's preferred pattern of exit negotiations first, with the future relations between the two sides - including the free trade deal the United Kingdom is seeking - at a later date.

"We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit, first for citizens but also for the beneficiaries of European Union policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland".

He added: "That will also me to report to the European Council later this week that we had a constructive opening for negotiations".

Davis, a prominent tough-talking figure in the "Leave" campaign, sounded a positive note too, saying "there is more that unites us than divides us". "We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit", said Barnier. 'The most important thing now is to be as positive as we possibly can, ' he told BBC Radio 4 Today.

Mrs May triggered the two-year Brexit process in March when she was riding high in opinion polls, and called fresh elections shortly after to shore up her mandate for a tough Brexit stance.

An EU-UK trade deal is far from plain sailing, however, with Brussels warning it could take up to seven years after Brexit to agree on one.

Days after a suggestion from French President Emmanuel Macron that Britain could still choose to remain, Davis said there would be no backtracking from Prime Minister Theresa May's plan to deliver on Brexit, for which Britons voted in a referendum nearly a year ago.

Those issues are Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros (USD 112 billion), the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

European Union diplomats hope this first meeting and a summit in Brussels later this week, where May will be present but will not negotiate with European Union leaders, can improve the atmosphere after recent spiky comments from both sides.

Political leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Emmanuel Macron, hope that no concessions will be made to Britain, as this might encourage other countries to follow suit.

Anxious by mass immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain past year voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result.

Time running outAn increasingly concerned European Union has been pushing London to hurry up, with time running out for a deal and three months already passed since May triggered the two-year Article 50 European Union exit process.

The talks are due to get under way at 10:00 BST.

He said once there was sufficient progress on those, the talks would start looking at the EU's new relationship with Britain.

Yet many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.

Finance minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that it was still the plan to quit not only the EU but the customs union and single market as well.

Mr Hammond also warned about failing to get a Brexit deal.

The withdrawal agreement will be finalised "around October 2018".

  • Zachary Reyes