With the clock ticking, UK, EU play up chance of deal

Frederick Owens
June 20, 2017

Davis and Barnier both admitted the Irish border question dominated the first negotiating session, but there did seem to be progress on the issue of European Union citizens' rights.

"We must think about the deep and meaningful partnership with Europe", he said.

Barnier has said a divorce deal should be ready by October next year to give time for parliamentary approval - while European Union leaders want Theresa May to lay off threatening to walk out and leave a chaotic legal limbo in her wake.

They said discussions would be split into three stages: citizen rights, the single financial settlement and other separation issues.

They denied strongly that Ireland had been sidelined and said it had been the issue which consumed most of their time on Monday and was technically most hard.

After seven hours of talks in Brussels, Davis, who had previously promised the "row of the summer" over the timetable for the negotiations, remained upbeat. "Second, it shows the stronger negotiating position of the European Union, and the benefits of long and detailed preparation".

He insisted that his position was "completely consistent with the long-standing position" of his government, and that what matters is how the negotiation will end, not how it started.

Davis said: "While there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear - a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU".

"They should be agreed alongside each other, this is completely consistent with the council's guidelines which state nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

May herself will also have a chance to update the other 27 European Union leaders on her Brexit plans at a summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday. "We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit", he said.

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Describing the negotiation as exceptional, Barnier denied to give further details on how he will secure the transparency of talks. It's not about punishment, it's not about revenge.

Other official at the table included Glynn Williams - director general at the Home Office, Mark Bowman - director general, worldwide finance at HM Treasury, Simon Case - director general, UK-EU partnership team, Alex Ellis - director general at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Jane Walker - aide to David Davis and Christian Jones - press secretary to David Davis.

On trade, Mr Davis insisted the United Kingdom had not changed its position in the wake of the election - it would be leaving the single market and the customs union. "Everyone must accept their responsibilities, the consequences of their decisions ..."

Later in the package, Ukip MEP Tim Aker said the start of negotiations marked a milestone in the party's campaign to take Britain out of the EU.

The talks in Brussels consist of an opening session with both Mr Davis and Mr Barnier each joined by a large team of officials.

"The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty".

Nearly two thirds of Brits, 65%, want talks to go ahead, a Survation poll said today. Beyond the politics, we need to put the economy first.

For one thing, renewed debate in her cabinet on how far to go with her clean break from the single market and customs union has made it hard to present a coherent set of demands in Brussels.

The two sides agreed in principle to a format of four-week rounds of bargaining, with one week per month of head-to-head bargaining, to be carried out in English and French.

"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".

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