Britain Starts Brexit Talks With a Whimper, Not a Bang

With a growing domestic crisis gripping the UK, it is David Davis, the UK Brexit Minister who will face up with the European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

"We start off on the right foot as the clock was ticking", Mr Barnier said.

Davis's agreement to Monday's agenda led some European Union officials to believe May's government may at last be coming around to Brussels' view of how negotiations should be run.

However, in a significant concession, Britain's negotiators have now agreed to an European Union demand to delay talks on a new trading relationship.

"I think it is important that whatever deal is done here involves all of the parties, not just the big two", said Mr Coveney.

European stocks rose on Monday, partly on optimism about the talks actually getting underway after months of sniping and uncertainty, analysts said.

"For the EU27's part, we have set out our position plainly and in this position there is a strong acknowledgement of Ireland's unique concerns and priorities, including on: protecting both the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the peace process; avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and; maintaining the Common Travel Area", he said.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted last June to become the first nation ever to leave the 28-nation EU.

The vote came as a profound shock to Brussels against a backdrop of rising anti-EU sentiment, with many - including now US President Donald Trump - predicting the bloc's eventual break-up.

While the European Union negotiating team led by Barnier has been ready for months, British efforts on Brexit stalled even after it triggered the two-year process on March 29.

But May's mandate for a hard Brexit has since eroded after her Conservative party lost its parliamentary majority in the June 8 general election.

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.

Time is pressing. After the June 23, 2016, referendum to leave the bloc, the other 27 nations wanted to start the exit talks as soon as possible so they could work on their own future but Britain long seemed dazed by its own momentous move. European Union diplomats hope this first meeting, and a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday where May will encounter - but not negotiate with - fellow European Union leaders, can improve the atmosphere after some spiky exchanges.

But Davis, the British negotiator, told reporters Monday that he flatly rejected those offers.

Soros has famously bet against the British pound before, and is not showing much faith in Britain's economy with Brexit on the horizon.

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of Merkel, also easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.

Mr Hammond said: "The future of our economy is inexorably linked to the kind of Brexit deal that we reach with the EU". It has led to calls from within the Conservative Party and business community for a softer Brexit where the mantra of "no deal is better than a bad deal" is laid to rest and the focus shifts to the economy and jobs with some calling for the United Kingdom to remain in both the single market and the customs union.

But he warned that "we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge".

  • Leroy Wright