UK, EU's historic Brexit talks commence

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Thursday she would set out plans at a Brussels summit to "protect" the rights of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom after Brexit.

"Today we agreed on dates, we agreed on organisation and we agreed on priorities for negotiations", he said after the talks at the European Commission in Brussels.

She added: "We want to conduct these negotiations in such a way that they take place in a good spirit, and we know that we want to continue working afterward with Britain".

She said: "I want to say clearly that, for me, shaping the future for the 27 takes priority over the negotiations with Great Britain over withdrawal".

"But at the same time, I am a realist and this is why first of all we should start our negotiations as effectively as possible".

As for the European Union side, it is expecting to have the final say on what Brexit entails, no matter what Britain seeks.

But the Conservative leader, who is battling to retain her authority after losing her parliamentary majority in a snap vote, also put herself on a collision course with Brussels with the plans.

In Brussels, security has been stepped up after Tuesday's bombing at one of the city's main rail stations by an Islamic State sympathiser, following attacks in Britain and France.

The fate of an estimated three million Europeans now living in Britain and around one million Britons living elsewhere in the EU was thrown into doubt by Britain's vote to leave the bloc a year ago.

Asked to clarify a remark he made after Monday's opening of talks about not making concessions to Britain, he played it down as a statement of the obvious not to concede arguments at the outset and all the more so because his meeting with Britain's David Davis in Brussels did not launch talks on substance.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Sunday's Welt am Sonntag newspaper that "maybe there is now a chance to achieve a so-called "soft Brexit.'" But he said staying in the single market would require Britain to accept European Union workers" freedom of movement.

Mrs May said: "What I am going to be setting out today is clearly how the United Kingdom proposes to protect the rights of European Union citizens living in the UK and see the rights of UK citizens living in Europe protected".

May will also aim to show that while still a member of the EU, Britain will contribute to other summit discussions, pressing for more action to encourage social media companies to clamp down on internet extremism and for the EU to roll over sanctions against Russian Federation over the Ukraine crisis.

"I am not a dreamer".

Reuters reported that the two chief Brexit negotiators agreed that talks until October should focus on citizens' rights, a financial settlement and other separation issues, with a separate dialogue on Northern Ireland, a document showed.

Nearly exactly a year after Britain's seismic referendum to leave the bloc, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier of France, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a cheery handshake at the European Commission in Brussels.

  • Leroy Wright