The status of EU expatriates in Britain and that of United Kingdom citizens living in Europe were among the priorities as negotiations began between Brexit Secretary David Davis and Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, in Brussels.
Both EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis said after the first negotiating session they were confident of quick progress but said major challenges lay ahead to meet the deadline of March 2019 for Britain to officially leave the bloc.
Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted previous year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc – the first state ever to do so.
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 must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit, first for citizens but also for the beneficiaries of European Union policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland”.
“First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of European Union policies and the impact on borders, in particular Ireland”.
“There is more that unites us than divides us”, Davis said, referring to the latest reported terror attack overnight in London and the loss of lives in forest fires in Portugal.
A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European said: “We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account”.
He added that an orderly withdrawal was essential for both Britain and the EU.
The UK wants to begin working out the details of a trade agreement alongside the terms of the withdrawal process.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes for a “good agreement” after Brexit talks in which 27 European Union countries will listen carefully to what Britain wants but also defend their own interests.
Finance minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that it was still the plan to quit not only the EU but the customs union and the bloc’s single market as well.
A coalition of influential business groups echoed that sentiment on Monday, saying that the government should “put the economy first” in the Brexit talks.
“Northern Ireland is very complex and sensitive and we take it extremely seriously”, Davis said.
May’s election debacle has revived feuding over Europe among Conservatives that her predecessor David Cameron hoped to end by calling the referendum and leaves European Union leaders unclear on her plan for a “global Britain” which majority regard as pure folly.
Mr Barnier spoke at a press conference after the first day’s talks to confirm that settling priority issues would build “trust on which to negotiate a new relationship”.
But he didn’t mention the EU’s third objective – for Britain to settle a bill of tens of billions of euros.