So it begins: Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with European Union

Davis's agreement to Monday's agenda led some European Union officials to believe that May's government may at last coming around to Brussels' view of how negotiations should be run.

"Both for the European Union and the UK, a fair deal is possible, and far better than no deal, that is what I say to David today, that is why we will work all the time with the UK and never against the UK", Michel Barnier said at a joint press conference with his British counterpart David Davis, after wrapping up the opening salvo of the Brexit talks in Brussels.

The smiles belied the fact that at stake is not just Britain's future but also Europe's postwar political order and its place in the world, which could be fatally undermined without an agreement by the March 2019 deadline. An early election this month, in which British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her Conservative majority in parliament, only added to the problems.

And while there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear - a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU.

Davis said that the hard work begins now, adding that he wanted a deal that worked for both sides.

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

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson remained upbeat Monday and thinks the Brexit negotiations will yield "a happy resolution that can be done with profit and honour for both sides".

Davis said Prime Minister May will also set out at an EU summit on Thursday her proposals for the rights of the three million EU nationals living in Britain, and one million Britons in the EU, with the British government to publish a detailed offer next Monday.

The working language of the negotiations will be English and French, with interpretations provided by the European Commission.

European Union diplomats hope this first meeting and a summit in Brussels later this week, where May will be present but will not negotiate with European Union leaders, can improve the atmosphere after recent spiky comments from both sides.

Britain a year ago voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result.

Time running outAn increasingly concerned European Union has been pushing London to hurry up, with time running out for a deal and three months already passed since May triggered the two-year Article 50 European Union exit process.

"How on earth do you resolve the border, the issue of the border with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, unless you know what our general borders policy is, what the customs agreement is, what the free trade agreement is, whether you need to charge tariffs at the border or not?"

Monday's talks however are likely to focus on the practical details of timings for the coming months, with the big, divisive issues left aside for now, officials said.

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", another European source said.

Many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, 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.

Davis was flanked at the negotiating table by Olly Robbins, the senior civil servant at the Department for Exiting the European Union, and Sir Tim Barrow, the UK's ambassador to the EU.

May is now seeking backing from the DUP, a Northern Irish party, for her minority Conservative government after she lost her parliamentary majority in a June 8 election. "We hope we can get a reasonable and fast resolution".

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