Brexit timetable and negotiation plan revealed

The chief negotiators, Michael Barnier for the European Union and David Davids for the United Kingdom, struck few dissonant chords and exchanged light banter during a press conference held after six hours of talks, which they described as constructive and aimed at ensuring a fair deal for both sides.

Arriving for the opening round of talks, Mr Davis defied European Union critics to insist Britain can win a good Brexit deal despite Mrs May's political turmoil in London as historic talks begin.

"There is more that unites us than divides us", Davis said.

"While there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure that we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all citizens".

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.

"I hope today we can identify priorities and a timetable that would allow me to report to the European council later this week that we had a constructive opening of negotiations".

Upon discovering Prime Minister Theresa May was a keen walker, Mr Barnier said in April: "If you like walking in the mountains, you have to learn a certain number of rules".

"The more that Britain is unstable politically, the more hard it is to complete the talks on time", Grant said.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted past year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so - in a shock referendum result.


Davis called for "a deal like no other in history" ahead of the talks, which European Union figures have said need to progress in good time to be completed before the March 2019 legal deadline in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

In carefully choreographed talks that even saw the two men exchange mountaineering gifts, they agreed to discuss divorce issues before negotiations on a future trade deal can start.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the unity of the remaining 27 European Union countries, who have been alarmed in recent weeks by May's threats to walk out of the talks. "In the first step we will deal with the most pressing issues, in the second step will scope our future partnership", added Barnier. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "If we don't succeed, both sides will lose".

Priorities drawn up at the EU's insistenceThe two other priorities on the initial agenda - drawn up at the EU's insistence - are how to maintain a "soft" border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic after Brexit, and the UK's financial obligations to European institutions and programmes.

Britain is due to leave the European Union at midnight Brussels time (11pm in the UK) on March 29 2019 - unless an extension is agreed by all 27 remaining member states. - with or without an agreement.

Scottish Government minister for Brexit talks with the UK Government, Michael Russell, referring to a further admission from leading pro-Brexit Tory minister Michael Gove, said: "Everything he and Brexit enthusiasts said in #EURef turned out to be false".

A "dialogue" about Ireland and Northern Ireland has been launched separately.

"No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain", Hammond said Sunday. "It's a statement of common sense that if we are going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not a cliff edge".

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