The European Commission released a statement at the time saying discussions would focus on “issues related to citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks”.
Nearly exactly a year after Britain’s seismic referendum to leave the bloc, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier of France, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a cheery handshake at the European Commission in Brussels.
The mood was “incredibly positive” on the first day of Brexit talks between both sides, a British source said.
Responding to Mr Barnier, Mr Davis quoted wartime British prime minister Winston Churchill: “No doubt the road ahead will at times be challenging, but as Churchill once said, a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity”.
A terms of reference document setting out the rules for both sides also states: “For both parties the default is transparency”.
The EU has set three priority areas: Britain’s exit bill, the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and Northern Ireland.
Mr Davis said Prime Minister Theresa May would brief fellow European Union leaders at a summit on Thursday on the UK’s approach to the rights of expatriate citizens, which will be set out in detail in a paper on Monday.
Johnson called on people to look at the more distant future.
“While there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear – a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU”, Davis said in a statement as he headed into the talks. “First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of European Union policies and the impact on borders, in particular Ireland”.
“We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions, with an ambitious but eminently achievable timetable”, said the Brexit Secretary.
But she now faces growing opposition at home to this, and her threats to walk away without a deal, in the wake of this month’s general election in which she lost her centre-right Conservative party’s parliamentary majority.
The EU says Britain must honour its contributions to the bloc’s budget, which has already been agreed up to 2020, as well as commitments to development programmes for poorer member states. Britain has all but acknowledged that the talks will be phased: At a press conference in Paris with French president Emmanuel Macron last week, prime minister Theresa May referred to the “good process” set out by EU.
“We are. determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves, our European allies and friends”.
If Britain crashes out of the European Union without a deal, that would create huge uncertainties for citizens and businesses as well as issues like global security.
European Union officials acknowledge that the agreements to be reached before Britain leaves in March 2019 can only be concluded as a whole package simultaneously but leaders have barred Barnier from talking about trade before he gets outline deals on the rights of expatriate citizens and how much Britain owes the EU.
When asked why he had capitulated to European Union demands, Davis replied that: “It’s not when it starts”.
Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of Merkel, also easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.