Thursday, 18 January, 2018

Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

Brexit talks to focus on expats UK’s ‘divorce bill’ and N Ireland border Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU
Erik Tate | 21 June, 2017, 07:06

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, spent the weekend hiking in the French Alps. Back then, Prime Minister Theresa May was still talking as though Britain held all the cards.

Before the election, May proposed a clean break from the European Union: leaving its single market, which enshrines free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and proposing limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

There are some doubts in Brussels, however, that Davis will even be able to make an offer, given the government's loss of its Commons majority following the recent general election.

So far, he has been successful in that job, making clear the European single market's "four freedoms", including free movement, are indivisible and forcing Mrs May to confirm her intention to pull the United Kingdom out to get control of immigration.

Here are the key issues as Britain's Brexit minister David Davis and the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier of France, meet in Brussels.

Compounding the pressures on the British leader, she has been widely accused of failing to show enough empathy with victims of a horrific tower block fire in London last week.

"But you have to be prepared to walk away if you get a bad deal and that means World Trade Organisation rules".

Monday's negotiations are to open at 11:00am in Brussels (0900 GMT) with 90 minutes of talks between Barnier and Davis, followed by a working lunch between the pair and a press conference.

"There is more that unites us than divides us", he said, adding that Britain was looking for a "positive and constructive tone" in the talks. The public mood has also been shaken by a wave of terror attacks in recent weeks, the latest of which involved a van that rammed pedestrians near a mosque in North London early on Monday morning, killing one and injuring ten.

The EU will aim to see if "sufficient progress" has been made by October to move on to the next phase of negotiations, sources told the BBC's Europe correspondent Damian Grammaticas. More than 80 percent of them voted in the election for a party that advocated ditching the single market, while 77 percent told polling company YouGov that they wanted out.

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Two races are scheduled on both days this weekend, beginning at 14:12 local time (1:12pm ET). Emirates Team New Zealand faces Oracle Team USA in the America's Cup sailing m.

"Everything is all over the place", said a senior executive responsible for Brexit preparations at a FTSE 100 company.

May's ultimate dilemma, however, is that regardless of what she seeks, it will be the rest of the European Union that determines the shape of Brexit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes for a "good agreement" after Brexit talks in which 27 European Union countries will listen carefully to what Britain wants but also defend their own interests.

That means denying May an easy ride.

"It was clear from the opening that both of us want to achieve the best possible outcome and the strongest possible partnership", Davis said. Barnier has said talks on a trade deal can not even start until sufficient progress has been made on the other issues.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

May's chief problem may again lie more at home than overseas.

"No businessman would actually say about a business model "look I'm going to change the business model I've got today and replace it tomorrow morning with a completely different business model".

That would raise the odds of talks collapsing, meaning when the U.K faced a period of uncertainty and sweeping tariffs. Business leaders have already warned against such a "cliff edge" scenario and are eager to see a transitional period to give them time to adjust after the split.

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