Round 1: Brexit talks start in Brussels with 20 months to go

Jul 17, 2017, 20:35
Round 1: Brexit talks start in Brussels with 20 months to go

After an initial meeting last month where the structure of the talks was determined, Britain's Brexit minister, David Davis, met up with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator in Brussels ahead of four-days of discussions.

"Now it's time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation", Davis told reporters as Barnier welcomed him to the headquarters of the European Commission.

He said negotiators had made a good start last month but that they would now be working "on the substance of the matter".

"We need to examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress", he said.

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The Chancellor, Phillip Hammond, accused his rivals in the Cabinet of trying to undermine his plans for a business-friendly withdrawal over the weekend.

"The plenary meetings [of the Brexit talks] will show us whether there is a realistic basis for agreement or whether the British government can not move at all because of its own problems", said Elmar Brok, a German centre-right MEP who helps coordinate the European parliament's position on Brexit.

One of them hit back by claiming he was a member of "the establishment" which seeks to keep Britain in the European Union, claiming the Treasury sought to "frustrate" Brexit.

In Brussels, Davis acknowledged it was "incredibly important" to make progress, "that we negotiate through this and identify the differences so that we can deal with them and identify the similarities so that we can reinforce them". Beyond these headline goals, they will discuss how to ensure a smooth transition on Brexit Day, a set of topics known as "other separation issues" where the ECJ looms large. The European Parliament warned last week it could veto the final deal if Britain doesn't give EU citizens more rights if they choose to stay in Britain after Brexit, which is due to take place in March 2019.

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European Union leaders are set to decide at a summit in October whether there is enough common ground to move on to trade talks.

Matters regarding Britain's departure from the economic bloc will be handled by subordinates until Davis returns on Thursday.

The rowing will be seen as further evidence of Theresa May's weakness after seeing her Commons majority wiped out in last month's general election. The EU remains uncertain about whether British negotiators will be able to conclude an agreement, amid deep political divides in the government on Brexit.

Monday's discussions will focus on citizen's rights and the bill the United Kingdom will pay to exit.

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