EU, UK agree on priorities, timetable for Brexit talks

Frederick Owens
June 20, 2017

Given that the EU's chief negotiator previously warned Brexit would be a "steep and a rocky" path, the choice seemed apt.

Mr Barnier said the meeting was a "useful" opportunity to "get off on the right foot", and quoting French diplomat and European Union founding father Jean Monnet, he said he was "neither optimistic nor pessimistic" but "determined".

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 mood was "incredibly positive" on the first day of Brexit talks between both sides, a British source said.

The EU's trade negotiator Michel Barnier was bullish when asked if, given the UK's early hours compromise he would be making any concessions.

Brussels has vowed it will not begin trade talks until it is paid - but Theresa May has said they must start immediately and occur at the same time.

The terms of reference state "for both parties the default is transparency" and that it is for the side providing any information to state whether it should remain secret.

After Davis and Barnier met over lunch in the Commission's top floor dining rooms, their teams broke up into "working groups" that will be charged with handling specific areas of talks that the European Union expects to take place for a week every month.

Mr Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said it could take "until the end of the process" to resolve the issue, because it will be tied in with the trade and customs deals the United Kingdom is able to strike with Brussels. A trade agreement can only be completed once the United Kingdom leaves the bloc.

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The two men said they will meet once every month for catch-up talks.

The two sides will hold four further monthly rounds of talks with the aim of getting the remaining 27 European Union countries to agree this autumn to move on to the trade talks phase.

Mr Davis said the move had "absolutely nothing to do with negotiations inside the Houses of Commons", where British Conservatives are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to try to form a minority government. "A deal like no other in history".

But the business community and many lawmakers want to retain closer ties with Europe, and they are heaping pressure on the prime minister to change her approach.

"I think the whole process will lead to a happy resolution which can be done with honour and profit to both sides", Johnson said as he went into an European Union foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.

Though the basic outlines of a deal could be struck in the allotted time, he said, uncertain British politics could add a challenge.

"The new Northern Irish executive needs to be set up in a few days' time, at the same time we have a new government and a new Taoiseach in Dublin and of course there are the ongoing political discussion in London which we are also following closely".

Quoting Winston Churchill, Davis said in response: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty".

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