European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said the negotiations which should lead to a breakup by March 2019 “must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit – first for citizens, but also for the beneficiaries of the European Union policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland“.
A member of protocol changes the EU and British flags prior to the arrival of EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier and British Secretary of State David Davis at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017. Britain, he said, would seek to leave both the single market and the customs union and forge a separate trading agreement.
Michel Barnier was speaking at the end of the first day of negotiations in Brussels with Brexit Secretary David Davis, who said he was “optimistic” of reaching a good deal.
Barnier and Davis will have a week of negotiations each month, while the other three weeks will be used for preparations and working out the details.
“For me, it is above all about the EU27 proceeding together and listening carefully to Britain’s wishes and expectations”, Merkel said after meeting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.
Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted a year ago to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc – the first state ever to do so.
“In the first step we will deal with the most pressing issues”.
And even when May finally triggered the two-year unraveling process on March 29, she followed it up with an early election she counted on winning big, only to lose her majority in the June 8 poll.
Almost a year to the day since Britons shocked themselves and their neighbours by voting on 23 June 2016 to cut loose from their main trading partner (See: It’s Brexit as United Kingdom votes to leave European Union), and nearly three months since Prime Minister Theresa May locked them into a two-year countdown to Brexit in March 2019, almost nothing about the future is clear.
Subjects for the negotiations, which officially start in Brussels, include the status of expats, the UK’s “divorce bill” and the Northern Ireland border.
The EU says it will not compromise on its core “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, capital, services and workers. “It is by lifting uncertainties around these issues that we will lay the foundation and create the climate of trust which will enable us to build a new partnership”.
“The divorce process would take at least five years, and during that time new Elections would take place”.
Yet many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.
He also confirmed that Britain would opt for a “hard Brexit” that involves quitting the EU’s single market and customs union, rejecting suggestions that after a poor election performance by May the line might be softened.
But he warned that “we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge”. He said once there was sufficient progress on those, the talks would start looking at the EU’s new relationship with Britain.