As London squabbles, Brexit negotiations start in Brussels

Aaron Brown
July 17, 2017

Earlier in March, British Prime Minister Theresa May had set a two-year timetable for leaving the EU. In particular, the delegations are expected to focus on how to manage new border arrangements, what rights EU and United Kingdom citizens will hold post-Brexit and, most controversially, how much London owes the Union.

Liberal Democrats leader Tim Farron seized on the splits, saying: "The Conservative government is more interested in tearing itself apart than getting on with the monumental challenge it has set itself on Brexit".

"For us it's incredibly important we now make good progress, that we negotiate through this and identify the differences so we can deal with them and identify the similarities so that we can reinforce them", added Davis.

Davis is expected to call for both sides to "get down to business" as he arrives for the second round. "We need to examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress".

Twice in as many days, newspapers ran hostile stories about Hammond from last week's cabinet meeting, leaked by other ministers at the table.

These ranged from claiming that public sector workers were "overpaid" to saying that driving a train was so easy "even a woman" could do it.

"I do think on many fronts it would be helpful if my colleagues - all of us - focused on the job at hand", he told the BBC.

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Hammond told BBC1's Andrew Marr show: "If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda that I have".

Sources in Brussels were also more optimistic on the eve of the talks about avoiding a total breakdown in negotiations, after the United Kingdom formally recognised financial obligations to the European Union in a written statement to parliament last week.

Discussions on the politically charged issue of the Irish border issue will be led by Sabine Weyand, Barnier's deputy, and Olly Robbins, permanent secretary of the department for exiting the EU.

Negotiation on the exit bill might be tough as British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson made the remark last week that the European Union could "go whistle" over its "extortionate" bill demand, which means the European Union has little chance of getting it.

British officials recently have also brought up the idea a transitional period after the March 2019 deadline to avoid a "cliff edge" scenario when it leaves the European Union, although the length and details have yet to be determined.

During four days of talks the two sides hope to make progress on key issues surrounding Britain's withdrawal, including citizens' rights and its exit bill, so that negotiations can move on to discuss a future trade deal later this year.

"I am not hearing any whistling, just the clock ticking", said the former European Commissioner and French foreign minister.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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