Brexit talks begin in Brussels
UK facing ‘substantial consequences’ over EU exit
The EU’s chief negotiator warned that there would be “substantial consequences” for Britain as it began talks on withdrawal from the trading bloc.
Both sides put on a show of goodwill but there was no avoiding the message from EU negotiators that the process would be hugely complex.
Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis insisted the talks had begun strongly and that a deal would be achieved.
“We’ve laid solid foundations for future discussions and an ambitious but achievable timetable,” he said, adding he was “encouraged” by what he called “a promising start”.
But the European Union’s Michel Barnier indicated that the first day of talks had established little more than a timetable.
It was also evident that Mr Davis has already accepted the EU’s preferred order for the talks which will mean trade negotiations do not begin immediately as the UK wanted.
Initial discussions will focus on citizens’ rights, a financial settlement and preserving the Good Friday Agreement.
Mr Barnier refused to discuss concessions to Britons who, in the eyes of most EU leaders, are inflicting difficulties on themselves.
At a press conference following the opening day of talks, Mr Barnier said: “The United Kingdom is going to leave the European Union, single market and the customs union, not the other way around.
“So, we each have to assume our responsibility and the consequences of our decisions. And the consequences are substantial.”
Mr Davis said the Prime Minister would brief fellow EU leaders at a summit on Thursday on the UK’s approach to the rights of expatriate citizens, which will be set out in detail in a paper on Monday.
“Today marks the start of a journey, for the United Kingdom and for the European Union,” he said.
“There is a long way to go, but we are off to a promising start. We have taken the first, critical steps together.
“Now, we have a shared responsibility to deliver quick and substantive progress.”
Mr Barnier and Mr Davis will meet every four weeks with different working groups negotiating on the the various issues.
Terms of reference agreed by both sides envisage four rounds of talks on the first phase of discussions, in the weeks starting July 17, August 28, September 18 and October 9, implying trade talks are unlikely to open until after the European Council summit of October 18/19.