Both EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his United Kingdom counterpart David Davis said they were heartened by the first day of talks on Monday and insisted the tight deadlines were tough but achievable. That financial issue is already a bone of contention, as is Brussels’ refusal to discuss a new free trade deal until after it is resolved.
“I hope today we can identify priorities and a timetable that would allow me to report to the European Council (summit) later this week that we had a constructive opening of negotiations”, added the former European commissioner and French foreign minister, speaking against a backdrop of British and EU flags. 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.
“So while there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens”.
“And we agreed that we stand a much greater chance of success if our teams work together as that’s been demonstrated today”.
There will be haggling over the terms, over money, but “the most important thing is to raise our eyes to the future … and think about the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends”, he said.
“We’re in the same place, we take the same view as Michel [Barnier] on this, we want to see the public informed… by proactive publication of what we are doing, not by leaks or erroneous briefings”, Davis said.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the unity of the remaining 27 European Union countries, who have been alarmed in recent weeks by May’s threats to walk out of the talks.
Germany’s deputy foreign minister, Michael Roth, told RBB Inforadio that “we must of course protect our interests as the European Union 27 but naturally we also don’t want to punish Britain“.
Anxious by mass immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain previous year voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result. There is more that unites us than divides us.
But 81 days since Mrs May officially triggered the two year Article 50 exit process, the Brexit Secretary arrived in Brussels to pledge to battle for Britain “in a positive and constructive tone”.
After failing to secure a parliamentary majority in a national election last week, UK’s Prime Minister Theresa May’s conservatives are in coalition talks with a small, far-right, protestant Northern Irish party, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
While the European Union negotiating team led by Barnier has been ready for months, British efforts on Brexit stalled even after it triggered the two-year process on March 29.
With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens’ rights, though the two sides are some way apart.
After the initial shock of last year’s Brexit vote, the bloc at 27 appears to have steadied in recent months and got a real morale boost with the election of French President Emmanuel Macron in May.
Many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has dismissed speculation that he will push for a soft Brexit by arguing for Britain to remain in the customs union and single market.
“On citizens, we hope that we can get a reasonably fast resolution”.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.