Britain kicks off its formal European Union exit talks Monday, almost a year after the country voted to leave the bloc, amid a backdrop of domestic political chaos, a weakening economy, a spate of deadly terrorist attacks and simmering social tensions following a fatal fire in a government-run housing project. The talks that are largely expected to conclude by March 2019, will decide Britain’s future amidst the geopolitical tussle, but will also decide upon the future of the world political order.
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”.
May’s government said it was “confident it can achieve a bold and ambitious deal that will work in the interest of the whole U.K”.
“We each have to assume our responsibility and the consequences of our decisions”, he said at the conclusion of Monday’s press conference.
European stocks rose on Monday, partly on optimism about the talks actually getting underway after months of sniping and uncertainty, analysts said.
But Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, are also determined not to make concessions to Britain that might encourage others to follow.
“Northern Ireland is very complex and sensitive and we take it extremely seriously”, Davis said.
The U.K.is due to leave the European Union by the end of March 2019 following last summer’s referendum vote. One that works for the United Kingdom and for the EU.
But the situation is very different from 12 months ago when the Brexiteers were riding high, with Prime Minister Theresa May’s entire approach called into question after a disastrous election performance on June 8.
Britain appears to have given in on the EU’s insistence that the negotiations first focus on three key divorce issues, before moving onto the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.
The EU had demanded early agreement on the rights of EU nationals living in the United Kingdom, the Brexit divorce bill and the Northern Irish border, before any discussions could begin on a trade deal.
European Union diplomats hope this first meeting, and a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday where May will encounter but not negotiate with fellow European Union leaders, can improve the atmosphere after some spiky exchanges.
The Brexit Secretary said: “The position hasn’t changed, we have the Lancaster House speech, the two white papers, and the Article 50 letter, all backed up by a manifesto too”.
May, under pressure after losing her ruling Conservatives’ majority in a botched snap election and over her response to a devastating fire that killed at least 58 in a London apartment block, says she wants a clean break with the European Union, a strategy some in her party have challenged as risking economic growth.
Investors are anxious that Britain could crash out of the European Union without an exit agreement in place, an outcome that would mean steep new barriers to trade.
But he warned that “we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge”.