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And so it begins: Brexit talks to focus 1st on orderly exit

And so it begins: Brexit talks to focus 1st on orderly exit

Britain and the European Union have agreed on the priorities and timetable for Brexit negotiations after the first session of talks yesterday, EU pointman Michel Barnier said.

The start of the talks, a year after the 23 June British referendum, marks a highly-symbolic moment as Britain undertakes the complex task of leaving the bloc after over 40 years of integration.

The UK kicked off talks in Brussels with both sides agreeing a schedule for dialogue as they attempt to pave the way to Brexit.

Their first task must be to "tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit", he said, citing the rights of European Union citizens in Britain and the possible impact on the open border between Northern Ireland and the republic.

The EU's chief negotiator, France's Michel Barnier, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a handshake and smiles for the press in the European Commission's landmark headquarters in central Brussels flanked by the EU and British flags. A snap election early this month, in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority, only added to the problems.

Mr Davis also brushed off the idea Britain's negotiating stance could change given political instability in the UK.

The two sides have until March 2019 to complete and ratify a deal on the U.K.'s divorce from the European Union after more than four decades of membership and to try to shape a future partnership between Britain and its neighbors.

Davis said the talks were off to a "promising start" and denied that Britain had caved in on the sequencing of the talks.

"I think it was recognition by all sides that the clock is ticking and we do really need to push on with this now and start to make positive strides towards getting a deal that is in both sides' interests", the source said.




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".

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.

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.

Threats by Britain to walk away without a deal have also anxious European capitals.

Barnier however said that "a fair deal is possible and is far better than no deal - that is what I said to David today".

The talks will be in English and French, they said in a joint statement.

In a decision branded "common sense" by European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the United Kingdom will now work to Brussels' timetable. However, not much clarity was provided immediately after the first official meeting of the EU-UK sides.

"We will then publish a detailed paper outlining our offer on (next) Monday which I believe will form the right basis on which to reach agreement", he said. "Our aim is to have one week of negotiations every month", said Barnier that further described the break-down of talks to into three groups that are to deal with: Citizens rights, Single financial settlement and Other separation issues. "But the 27 of us will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully, together", Merkel said.


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