EU, Britain possible to strike 'fair deal'

British foreign minister Boris Johnson

"We've laid solid foundations for future discussions and an ambitious but achievable timetable", said David Davis, Britain's Brexit minister on Monday, adding he was "encouraged" by the first talks.

"Now, the hard work begins", said UK's chief negotiator David Davis.

The meeting came after pressure from Brussels to set a date close to 19 June, as the European Council three days later would be a good chance for Barnier to inform the EU-27 about how the negotiations are to take place.

Unless all of the leaders of all the EU countries agree to an extension, Britain is required to leave the union by March 2019.

A terms-of-reference document agreed by the EU's Michel Barnier and Britain's David Davis said further talks would be held in the weeks starting on July 17, Aug 28, Sept 18 and Oct 9.

EU and British negotiators say the first day of negotiations on Britain's departure from the European Union was productive in outlining the program ahead and setting out the first challenges to settle, especially the rights of citizens living on each other's territory.

"We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit", Mr Barnier added.

"So we have got a very sensitive political context, a very clear objective which is to preserve all the dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement and we have an terrible lot of work to do - bilaterally, and also in coordination with the Dublin government on my side, so that we come up with imaginative and concrete solutions along the lines I have described, particularly taking into account the single market".

It's been almost a year since British voters approved the referendum known as Brexit to leave the European Union and almost three months since Prime Minister Theresa May formally launched the separation process.

I will do all I can to put emotion to one side and stick to the facts, the figures, and the legal basis, and work with the United Kingdom to find an agreement in that frame of mind.

A general election wiped out May's parliamentary majority earlier this month and her position has been weakened further in the wake of a deadly fire in a London apartment building.

In an interview with the Die Welt newspaper, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel offered what was essentially an invitation for the United Kingdom to change its mind. The group said any deal should minimize trade barriers and include a flexible immigration system.

Britain appears to have given in on the EU's insistence that talks first focus on three key divorce issues, before moving onto the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.

After seven hours of talks in Brussels, Mr Davis, who had previously promised the "row of the summer" over the timetable for the negotiations, remained upbeat.

Nearly a year after British voters took the decision to leave the bloc, MrDavis took a team of officials to open the negotiations with Mr Barnier in the European Commission's Berlaymont building on Monday.

Those issues are the exit bill; the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and the one million Britons on the continent who now are allowed to live, work and claim welfare benefits; and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

June 22 - Mr Barnier reports back to the leaders of the EU27, who are expected to endorse a process for relocation of European Union agencies now based in the UK.

"I would like us to get a good agreement that is in both sides' interests. We will be fighting for all of these issues and for a final say when the talks are resolved".

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