Britain, EU kick off Brexit negotiations

Government did respond to fire safety recommendations UK minister says

Britain, EU kick off Brexit negotiations

United Kingdom negotiator David Davis and the EU's 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.

The U.K. and the European Union started talks on Britain's exit from the bloc Monday morning, nearly a year after the U.K. voted to leave, with EU chief negotiator saying he hoped the two sides can start removing the uncertainties created by that decision.

The talks at the European Commission's headquarters kicked off just shy of a year after the Brexit referendum, when U.K. voters chose to leave the EU by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin, and almost three months after U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May sent a letter formally triggering the withdrawal process.

Brexit Secretary David Davis will call for a "deal like no other in history" as he sets off for Brussels to launch negotiations for Britain's divorce from the European Union.

But she lost her parliamentary majority in the June 8 polls, putting that policy and her own political future in doubt.

"We each have to assume our responsibility and the consequences of our decisions", he said at the conclusion of Monday's press conference.

The British team includes the permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) Olly Robbins; Phillip Rycroft, the department's second permanent secretary; and Simon Case, the newly appointed director-general of the UK-EU Partnership.

With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens' rights, though the two sides are some way apart. A fair deal for both sides was possible, he said.

Brexit Secretary David Davis appears to have conceded to European Union demands during the first day of historic talks, by agreeing to a "two-phased" negotiation.

Monday morning's terror attack in London and the devastating fires in Portugal reminded him that "there is more that unites us than divides us". But continental Europe now negotiates from a different, stronger position and leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron are determined not to make concessions that might encourage others to follow.

From the Brexit brigade's initial chest-beating and wild promises of reduced immigration and increased prosperity to Theresa May's shrill denunciation of the EU's "threats against Britain", the British position has been chaotic and weak.

The Commission said: "The opening of negotiations at political level will focus on issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequences approached to talks". We can only hope there is; after all, the 27 nations of the European Union have used the last three months to get their ducks in line on their terms for Britain's departure from the bloc, while the tides have been changing here following the hung parliament.

The EU appear to have claimed the first victory of the talks.

Barnier has warned that the negotiations must be wrapped up by October 2018 to allow time for all parties to ratify a final accord by March 2019. The talks may also have to end early, as European Union staff have been told they can leave work at 4 pm if the weather is too warm, the report said.

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