Historic Brexit divorce negotiations begin in Brussels

A key issue he did not mention was the EU's bill for Britain to leave, which Brussels estimates at a colossal 100 billion euros.

Those issues were Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros (R1.4-trillion), the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Mr Davis said there was a "long road ahead" but predicted a "deep and special partnership".

"We want to preserve all the aspects and all the obligations under the Good Friday agreement".

European Union officials have put the figure at around 50 billion euros ($63 billion) while other estimates by think tanks and in the media go as high as twice that amount.

She added: "I hope that we will reach a good agreement. But the 27 of us will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully, together", Merkel said.

A problem for British negotiators is to resolve what trade relationship they want. The election of the fervently europhile Macron, and his party's sweep of the French parliament on Sunday, has revived optimism in Brussels.

"We have laid a solid foundation for future discussions", said Davis. Such firms sold 7.3 billion euros ($8.2 billion) worth of goods to customers in Britain a year ago, their fourth-biggest market.

Davis said the talks would be carried out in "a positive and constructive tone", with Britain looking to forge a "strong and special partnership for the future". "We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit", centering on citizens living on each other's territory, border arrangements between Ireland and the United Kingdom and the amount that Britain stands to pay to get out of its previous European Union commitments, Barnier said.

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There is little consensus on whether Britain's negotiating hand as a whole has been damaged by the election result.

"None of them do, they insist on the country paying into the EU budget, and none of them do they insist on the other country being bound by the European Court of Justice". "These talks will be hard at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way".

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Monday he still thinks that the Brexit negotiations will yield "a happy resolution that can be done with profit and honor for both sides".

As the negotiations kick off, here's a look at some of the major issues the sides face. "A deal like no other in history", Davis said in a statement as he headed into the talks.

He noted that taking such an approach to the talks "will be good for the United Kingdom and good for the rest of Europe" in the long run.

Britain gave official notification that it would leave the European Union at the end of March, meaning it will leave the bloc, which is its biggest trading partner, in March 2019.

The Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz added: "One can not prolong indefinitely the state we're in; Brexit must be dealt with".

Meanwhile, according to reports the Brexit negotiations may be a very dry affair.

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