Britain, EU begin historic Brexit talks

Brexit Secretary David Davis arrives in Brussels on Monday to launch talks he hoped would produce a "new, deep and special partnership" with the EU in the interest of Britons and all Europeans.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier (R) welcomes Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis at the European Commission ahead of their first day of talks in Brussels, June 19, 2017.

Britain and the European Union have begun their first formal Brexit negotiations on Monday under pressure to seal a deal amid disarray in London over whether to go for a "hard" or "soft" divorce, which is expected to conclude within two years.

"Today we are launching negotiations on the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU," European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said as he greeted UK's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis at EU headquarters in Brussels.

Barnier on Monday said the negotiations which should lead to a breakup by March 2019 "must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit — first for citizens, but also for the beneficiaries of the EU policies and for the impact on borders, in particular, Ireland."

Barnier added he hoped the talks, starting almost a year to the day after a British referendum vote to leave the EU, would establish a timetable to which the negotiations would be conducted.

"I hope that today we can identify priorities and a timetable that would allow me to report to the [EU summit] later this week that we had a constructive opening of the negotiations," Barnier said.

Davis noted there were more things uniting the EU and Britain than dividing them. 

"We are starting this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone determined to build a strong and special partnership with our allies in the European Union," said Davis.

Ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg, British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said Brexit talks should aim to prepare the ground for a "deep and special partnership" that London wants with the European Union.

Worried by mass immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain last year voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result.

Around 52 percent of British voters opted for Brexit on June 23, 2016.

"Deal like no other in history"

Britain's Brexit secretary David Davis said the country wanted to strike "a deal like no other in history" he said before the talks.

"Today marks the start of negotiations that will shape the future of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and the lives of our citizens," Davis said.

"We want both sides to emerge strong and prosperous, capable of projecting our shared European values, leading in the world, and demonstrating our resolve to protect the security of our citizens."

Britain's Brexit ministry said the team travelling to Brussels was confident it could achieve a "bold and ambitious deal" and forge a new, close arrangement with the bloc.

"The UK will remain a committed partner and ally of our friends across the continent," Davis said.

"And while there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear – a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU. A deal like no other in history," he said.

"I look forward to beginning work on that new future."

UK's finance minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that Britain would be leaving not just the EU but also the single market and the customs union.

TRTWorld and agencies