Britain, EU begin formal Brexit talks

Union flags displayed on a tourist stall backdropped by the Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower containing the bell know as Big Ben in London Wednesday Feb. 8 2017. Britain's House of Commons is set to approve a bill authorizing the start

A beaming Brexit Secretary David Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, told a sombre Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time) that his team aimed to maintain a "positive and constructive tone" during "challenging" talks ahead in the hope of reaching a deal that was in the interests of both sides.

A top German business lobby is urging negotiators for Britain and the European Union to quickly come to an agreement over how Britain's departure from the EU will affect cross-border trade - and avoid a "hard Brexit".

Nearly exactly a year after Britain's seismic referendum to leave the bloc, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier of France, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a cheery handshake at the European Commission in Brussels.

At stake is not just Britain's future but also Europe's post-war political order and its place in the world which could be fatally undermined without an agreement by the March 2019 deadline. "First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of European Union policies and the impact on borders, in particular Ireland".

The EU's chief negotiator, Michael Barnier said, that he is hoping that there can be an agreed timetable set by Monday.

It left an image of a dysfunctional Britain coming up against a well-oiled European Union negotiating machine.

David Davis and Michel Barnier make a joint media address.

"We will be fighting for all of these issues and for a final say when the talks are resolved".

"The most important thing for us is to look to the horizon, raise our eyes to the horizon".

The prime minister will later this week update European leaders on the UK's approach to this issue at the European Council. "That will be in our mutual interest, but we 27 will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully together".

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted a year ago to end their country's four-decade membership in the 28-country bloc - the first nation ever to do so. An early election this month, in which British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her Conservative majority in parliament, only added to the problems.

Brexit talks in Brussels on Monday will focus on the status of expats, the UK's "divorce bill" and the Northern Irish border, rather than on future trade relations with the European Union, it has been confirmed.

Britain seems to have tacitly accepted the EU's plan for sequenced talks, which will focus first on the terms of Britain's withdrawal, with negotiations on a future relationship and trade deal coming later.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

But many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home and still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.

"We have the Lancaster House speech, the two white papers and the article 50 letter, all backed up by a manifesto - and so it's the same as it was before", he said, reiterating that Britain will leave the single market and seek to set up a free trade arrangement with the EU.

Hammond signalled that he was in favour of an extended transitional arrangement, to help the United Kingdom avoid the "cliff edge" Brexit which most economists agree would be hugely damaging to the country's economy.

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