Brexit negotiations have finally begun in Brussels, nearly a year to the day after Britain voted to leave the European Union. “We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit”, centring on citizens living on each other’s territory, border arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom and the amount that Britain stands to pay to get out of its previous European Union commitments, Barnier said.
It is unclear how much Davis and Barnier will be able to agree, with the Tories seeming to have dropped the “no deal is better than a bad deal” threat since the election, with many anti-Brexit ministers having gained confidence to push harder for a softer Brexit deal, putting jobs and the economy first.
An increasingly concerned European Union has been pushing London to hurry up, with time running out for a deal and three months already passed since May triggered the two-year Article 50 European Union exit process.
But a week ago Mr Davis said “we will start down this process but I will have some discussions with Mr Barnier about how we progress” to trade talks.
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 keep hearing only what they don’t want, but we don’t have any picture of what future relations will look like”. The United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union, single market and the customs union, not the other way around. I am determined.” Davis channeled Winston Churchill: “The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.
Speaking after the referendum vote, Mr Barnier said that shouldn’t be “prisoner to the British question” during Brexit negotiations.
The organisations also called for a final trade deal that allows tariff-free goods to be traded between the United Kingdom and European Union, alongside a flexible system for the movement of labour and skills. Mr Davis, a prominent tough-talking figure in the “Leave” campaign, sounded a positive note, saying that while there would “undoubtedly be challenging times ahead”, he wanted a good relationship with the EU.
“I think the divides between France and Germany will remain on key questions of economic policies”.
They exchanged gifts – a walking stick from Barnier’s native Alps for Davis, a French mountaineer’s memoir in a valuable first edition from the Briton to the Frenchman.
He said he views the talks with “informed optimism”.
It will test the ingenuity of thousands of public servants racing against the clock to untangle 44 years of European Union membership before Britain is out, 649 days from now, on 30 March 2019.
Minimal customs formalities at the land, sea and air borders between Britain and the EU.