BRUSSELS Talks on Britain leaving the European Union began Monday with both sides saying they will focus first on an orderly withdrawal: a deal for citizens living in each other’s territory, border arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom and the amount that Britain will pay to get out of previous EU commitments.
Before the General Election, ministers had insisted that talks on a future trading relationship must take place in parallel with the negotiations on the divorce from Brussels, with Mr Davis warning in May that it would be the “row of the summer”. A fair deal for both sides was possible, he said. The U.K. will exit the European Union in March 2019 unless all European Union nations agree to extend the negotiations.
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. “But the 27 of us will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully, together”, Merkel said.
Day One of the negotiations will be followed by a joint press conference later by Davis and Barnier.
A key issue he did not mention was the EU’s bill for Britain to leave, which Brussels estimates at a colossal 100 billion euros.
Davis said that the hard work begins now, adding that he wanted a deal that worked for both sides.
Barnier said there was agreement that the negotiators would first look at citizen’s rights, the outstanding bill Britain must pay for previous European Union commitments and the Irish border issue.
May was hoping to increase her support in the British election on June 8, but instead her party lost its outright majority and now has to try to form a workable government with a tiny party from Northern Ireland.
N. Ireland is expected to be dealt with early on, between Oliver Robbins, UK prime minister’s Sherpa, her chief diplomatic advisor and number two in the negotiations after Davis from the UK side and European Commission’s Deputy Chief Negotiator Sabine Weyand on the EU-27 side.
“We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions”, said Davis.
The talks at the European Commission’s headquarters kicked off just shy of a year after the Brexit referendum, when U.K. voters chose to leave the EU by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, and almost three months after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter formally triggering the withdrawal process.
Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, said he sought quick and substantive progress in what is scheduled to be a two-year negotiation before Britain leaves the EU.
Still, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson remained upbeat Monday and thinks that the Brexit negotiations will yield “a happy resolution that can be done with profit and honour for both sides”.
“I think the whole process will lead to a happy resolution which can be done with honour and profit to both sides”, Johnson said as he went into an European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.