The Brexit Secretary gave the European Commission’s chief negotiator a first edition of one of the great mountaineering books – a French language version of Regards vers l’Annapurna signed by French author Marcel Ichac. Earlier, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that negotiations would be beneficial for both sides.
Turning to a well-worn phrase favoured by European Union negotiators, he said: “Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.
Davis and Barnier have one key issue over the first weeks of talks: building trust after months of haggling over leaks and figures over the final bill that Britain would have to pay for leaving.
As for the four-week cycles, as Barnier confirmed, will split into four parts, with just the few first days, namely the first week of each cycle to be Barnier – Davis negotiations.
“In the first step, the negotiation rounds will be broken down into three groups: citizen rights, the single financial settlement, and other separation issues”, Barnier said.
The preparatory groups will report to chief negotiators, on the table, each negotiating week.
Johnson urged Europeans to look at the more distant future.
Both Davis and Barnier denied the downgrading of the N. Ireland issue by assigning the negotiations to their deputies, suggesting that the issue remains a top priority and that further progress is expected as new administrations receive positions. If no deal is struck by then, the sides may have to create a transitional deal, possibly prolonging some of the current relationship. “Ideas have not changed”.
“It was clear from the opening that both of us want to achieve the best possible outcome and the strongest possible partnership”, said Davis, adding that he was happy to see that there is much common ground between the two sides. “And so bridging between Churchill and Monnet I am certainly a determined optimist”, he said.
As for which negotiating subject should be expected to deliver faster, this would rather be citizens rights.
But he warned that “we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge”.
After Davis and Barnier met over lunch in the Commission’s top floor dining rooms, their teams broke up into “working groups” that will be charged with handling specific areas of talks that the European Union expects to take place for a week every month.
European Commission official Mr Barnier warned the United Kingdom faced “substantial” consequences as a result of Brexit but insisted it was “not about punishment” or revenge.
European stocks rose on Monday, partly on optimism about the talks actually getting underway after months of sniping and uncertainty, analysts said. “I prefer transparency to leaks”, were his words, that could suggest the publication of positions at the end of every negotiating cycle. “We want to have as broad a debate as possible”.