Once the divorce is agreed, the talks will focus on that future trade deal that May wants and which she says should feature financial services.
Those issues are the exit bill; the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and the one million Britons on the continent who now are allowed to live, work and claim welfare benefits; and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
But the agreement appeared at odds with British Prime Minister Theresa May’s earlier insistence that the divorce and the future relationship should be discussed in parallel.
Asked if he had given any ground to Britain, Mr Barnier said: “I am not in a frame of mind to make concessions, or ask for concessions. This is a major event, and it’s not about negotiating peanuts”.
“It’s been a year since the referendum”.
Many in business, concerned that former interior minister May will prioritise controlling immigration over preferential access to the European Union’s lucrative single market, hope an emboldened Hammond will mean their voices are listened to.
Mr Hammond, however, added he wanted to avoid the cliff edge scenario feared by Remainers, as he told the BBC host a seamless departure was needed.
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 – in a shock referendum result.
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.
“I’m sure business will get a better hearing”, a Conservative Party source said on condition of anonymity, while playing down any idea that Hammond might radically change the party’s Brexit stance.
He also reassured: “We will never work against the United Kingdom”.
The agenda for the meeting was agreed earlier this month following preparatory “talks about talks”.
EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis make statements as they arrive at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017. Mr Davis went into the talks announcing that he was in a “positive and constructive” frame of mind and that he was determined to build a “strong and special partnership” with the EU.
As has been the case throughout the run-up to the official talks, the main emphasis of the preview was on the U.K.’s desire to secure a future relationship with the EU.
“I will do all I can to put emotion to one side and stick to the facts, the figures, and the legal basis, and work with the United Kingdom to find an agreement in that frame of mind”. “That will be in our mutual interest, but we 27 will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully together”.
Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of Merkel, also easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base. “And fair means that we want to keep the British as close as possible to the European Union – but never at the price that we divide the remaining 27 European Union states”.
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 March 30, 2019.