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Brexit negotiations kick off almost a year after referendum

19 Juin 2017

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier (R) speaks as British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis looks on during a statement before the negociation of brexit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 19, 2017.

The aftermath of the inconclusive vote has left Britain's prime minister scrambling to try and form a power-sharing agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party in order to form a minority government.

But instead she lost her parliamentary majority, putting that hard-line approach and her political future in doubt after the disastrous June 8 election.

After nearly a year of waffling, Britain on Monday finally opens negotiations with its European Union counterparts about leaving the bloc, with the final outcome, due in 2019, as important as it now seems unpredictable.

The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials VDMA, says that that goal of the two-year negotiating process is "damage limitation" because Brexit won't benefit either side.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "If we don't succeed both sides will lose".

Davis's agreement to Monday's agenda led some European Union officials to believe May's government may at last be coming around to Brussels' view of how negotiations should be run.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.Barnier said he was hoping to have a clearer timetable by the end of the day.

"The most important thing I think now is for us to. think about the new partnership, the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends", said Mr Johnson, who campaigned in last year's referendum to leave the EU.

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Mr Barnier made clear that Brussels intends to stick to its timetable of dealing with the terms of Britain's withdrawal before moving on to discussing future trade relations.

"Now, the hard work begins", Mr Davis said, adding he wanted a deal that worked for both sides.

Davis and 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. There's more that unites us than divides us.

"Sitting down for a first formal negotiation round is something in and of itself", an European Union source told AFP.

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. Looking more sombre than his British counterpart, he said he hoped they could agree on a format and timetable on Monday.

European stocks rose today, partly on optimism about the talks actually getting underway after months of sniping and uncertainty, analysts said.

Finance minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that it was still the plan to quit not only the EU but the customs union and the bloc's single market as well.