Finally, Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

UK Secretary of State for Brexit David Davis is welcomed by Michel Barnier the European chief negotiator ahead of a meeting at the EU Commission in Brussels Belgium

The two chief negotiators, Michel Barnier of the European Union and David Davis from Britain, immediately set off to find common ground in their working relationship, an important touchstone to see how amicable the biggest political divorce in decades will become.

Davis said in a statement Sunday: "Now, the hard work begins".

It comes as the chancellor, Philip Hammond, appeared to be at odds with the prime minister as he told BBC's Andrew Marr show yesterday that leaving in 2019 with no deal "would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain".

The formal negotiations kick off after British Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservative Party performed poorly in a recent snap election she called in order to provide her with more leverage during the Brexit negotiations.

The European Commission has said that it wants the discussions to focus on "citizens" rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues'. There's more that unites us than divides us. He said: "It's at testing times like these that we are reminded of the values and resolve we share with our closest allies in Europe".

Last year's Brexit 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.

Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019.

A general election wiped out May's parliamentary majority earlier this month and her position has been weakened further in the wake of a deadly fire in a London apartment building.


Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, a leading Brexit supporter, said she believes the two-year timetable can be met.

Issues on the table will include the status of European Union citizens in the United Kingdom and of British people living in continental Europe, as well as the Northern Irish border and the size of any "divorce bill" - estimated at anything up to 100 billion euro (£88 billion).

"The divorce process would take at least five years, and during that time new Elections would take place".

VDMA managing director Thilo Brodtmann said in a statement that "the European Union and Great Britain must absolutely avoid being left without an agreement in two years".

"He will also set out a bold vision for the UK's future after it leaves the European Union and the exciting opportunities that will arise from our exit", added the statement.

Monday's talks however are likely to focus on the practical details of timings for the coming months, with the big, divisive issues left aside for now, officials said.

"He will also face an enormous amount of resistance on the ground from the vested interests of the trade unions which still wield an enormous amount of influence, and could make life very hard for the inexperienced new President and his party". Instead, he will stress the importance of a "pragmatic" approach to negotiating transition periods and avoiding a cliff edge.

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