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May offers 'fair deal' for European Union nationals

23 Juin 2017

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis (2L) and his delegation attend a meeting with European Commission member in charge of Brexit negotiations with Britain, Michel Barnier (2R) and his delegation at the start of Brexit negotiations at the European Commission in Brussels on June 19, 2017.

While officials welcomed the calm start to negotiations on Monday, EU diplomats are expressing pessimism that Britain will agree a deal before it leaves the bloc.

Jane Golding, the Berlin-based Chair of British in Europe, said: "The result is that the European Union offer now gives us nearly everything we need and abides by a core principle which both sides should respect - that the rights of citizens in place before Brexit (including the three million European Union citizens in the UK) should remain unchanged".

Davis brushed off a suggestion that a weakened Conservative government had dropped objections to a Brussels timetable, which would deal first with European Union priorities, including its demand Britain settle a "Brexit bill", and leave the talks on free trade that May wants until at least late this year.

For his part, and sounding conciliatory, Johnson said as he arrived at a meeting with fellow European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg that he looked forward to "a happy revolution" in relations that would be good for Britain and the rest of Europe.

"No deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain, but there is a possible worse outcome and that is a deal that is deliberately structured to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time".

Mr Davis, taking up the historical theme, quoted British wartime leader Winston Churchill.

Though less visibly upbeat than veteran Brexit campaigner Davis, Barnier insisted the two sides would work together for a "fair deal" that would not "punish" Britain.

"The other is the determination to maintain an, as near as possible, invisible border so we do not undermine the peace process, do not provide any cause for concern in Northern Ireland".

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Following the 2016 EU Referendum, the departure of former Prime Minister David Cameron and Theresa May's ill-judged and ill-fated snap election, it is finally time to get down to business.

The two sides agreed to set up three working groups covering the details of withdrawal: the financial settlement; citizens' rights; and one dealing with other legal issues relating to "separation".

"So, we each have to assume our responsibility and the consequences of our decisions".

"We will then publish a detailed paper outlining our offer on (next) Monday which I believe will form the right basis on which to reach agreement", he said.

Asked if he had given any ground to Britain, Mr Barnier said: "I am not in a frame of mind to make concessions, or ask for concessions".

"In the first step we will deal with the most pressing issues.

The position we have agreed today is completely consistent with our long-standing position we have set out on article 50", he said at a press conference after the day's talks had concluded. The U.K. and European Union hope the first phase of talks focusing on the exit terms will conclude by October, allowing trade negotiations to begin.

"To that end, we are starting negotiations in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves and our European partners and friends in the future", he said.

May offers 'fair deal' for European Union nationals