Finance

Britain says will be 'positive and constructive' in Brexit talks

Britain says will be 'positive and constructive' in Brexit talks

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier, welcomed UK's counterpart David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, as the British have responded positively to Barnier's call to open the negotiations at a political level, a week after preparatory "talks about talks" at a civil service level.

A beaming Brexit Secretary David Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, told a sombre Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, that his team aimed to maintain a "positive and constructive tone" during "challenging" talks ahead in the hope of reaching a deal that was in the interests of both sides.

He said he hoped during their single day of talks, he and Mr Davis would be able to identify priorities and a timetable, so he can report back to leaders of the other 27 EU states at the European Council summit in Brussels on Thursday that there had been a "constructive opening of negotiations".

Officials have made clear the Government still wants to negotiate its future trade relationship with the European Union alongside talks on Brexit terms.

And even when May finally triggered the two-year unraveling process on March 29, she followed it up by calling an early election on June 8 that she hoped would strengthen her majority in parliament and thus her negotiating mandate with the EU.

Such is the collapse of May's authority that her entire Brexit strategy is being picked apart in public by her ministers, her lawmakers and her allies on the eve of formal negotiations which begin in Brussels on Monday at 0900 GMT. Working groups will be set up to focus on three key areas - the status of EU citizens living in Britain and British citizens living in the EU; the divorce bill for Britain; and the future of the Northern Irish border with EU member Ireland.

The Queen's Speech sets out details of extensive UK Government legislation required to put Brexit into effect, expected to include a Great Repeal Bill bringing European Union laws and regulations onto the British statute book, as well as bills on issues including immigration and customs.

In the past few days, the softly spoken Hammond, whose future as Chancellor seemed to hang in the balance before May lost her Conservative party's majority in this month's vote, has made clear the silence he kept during the campaign had ended.

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"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, a European source said.

But he warned that "we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge".

The EU said it was also looking for a good compromise.

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.

Responding to Barnier's call to "tackle the uncertanties caused by Brexit", Davis said that "there is more that unites us than divides us", between the United Kingdom and its "closest allies in Europe".

This will include helping the Government to establish its position for future relations with Europe and outside of the EU.

But EU officials are sceptical that May's position has changed, just as they are doubtful about the feasibility of either option. Talks must be wrapped up by the end of 2018 to allow the European and British Parliaments to rubber-stamp them, making it questionable May can secure what she wants in the time frame allowed.

An EU-UK trade deal is far from plain sailing, however, with Brussels warning it could take up to seven years after Brexit to agree on one.


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