May's cabinet 'tearing itself apart' over European Union negotiation

Brexit Minister David Davis meets with European Union Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier

Britain's Brexit minister vowed to "get down to work" as he kicked off a first full round of negotiations on Monday, a year after Britons voted narrowly to quit the European Union their government still seemed at odds over what it wants.

"We made a good start last month but we are now getting into the substance of the matter", British Brexit Secretary David Davis told reporters as he was welcomed at the European Commission in Brussels by the EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

Negotiators will focus their talks on key issues, with Britain's exit bill as the core. The EU had demanded that Britain pay some 60 billion euros (70 billion USA dollars) as exit fee.

The priorities, notably rights for expatriate citizens, how much Britain may owe to the EU budget and how to manage the new EU-UK border, especially with Ireland, are ones both sides want to settle in a withdrawal treaty.

"For us, it's incredibly important we now make good progress", added Mr Davis, who held a first day of talks a month ago to agree an agenda, a year after Britons vote to leave the EU.

The Brexit Secretary said progress had to be made this month on a deal for reciprocal rights for citizens.

More than a year after the Brexit referendum, some still argue that it would be in Britain's interests to remain in the European Union, and retain the benefits of free movement of people, capital, goods and services.

Barnier, who has repeatedly called on weakened British Prime Minister Theresa May to quickly set out her divorce strategy, said they needed to "examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress".

Mr Barnier said: "We will now delve into the heart of the matter".

After a June snap election in which May's Conservatives lost their majority, her cabinet appears bitterly divided over the type of outcome it wants from the Brexit talks.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson then fanned the flames when he said in the Commons that Brussels could "go whistle" if it expected the United Kingdom to pay a hefty "divorce bill" in respect of its outstanding financial obligations.

The European Council President said it was "below expectations".

Brexit hardliners in the Cabinet and on the Tory backbenches are furious with Mr Hammond for championing a two-year transition deal to cushion the impact of leaving the EU.

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