With the clock ticking, UK, EU play up chance of deal


EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services Michel Barnier (R) and the governor of the Bank of Finland, Erkki Liikanen, at a press conference in Brussels, Oct. 2, 2012.

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

EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier, right, and British Secretary of State David Davis, second left, participate with their teams in a round table meeting at EU headquarters in Brussels on Monday, June 19, 2017.

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

The Irish Border is one of the EU's top three priorities in the first phase of talks, along with citizens' rights and the UK's financial settlement.

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.

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told Sunday's Welt am Sonntag newspaper that "maybe there is now a chance to achieve a so-called "soft Brexit.'" But he said staying in the single market would require Britain to accept European Union workers" freedom of movement.

Mr Davis said the move had "absolutely nothing to do with negotiations inside the Houses of Commons", where British Conservatives are in talks with the Democratic Unionist Party to try to form a minority government. They also exchanged gifts that recognised their shared passion for hillwalking and the uphill task ahead: a hiking stick for Mr Davis, and a book on hiking for Mr Barnier.

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"When we eventually get to the stage where the council decide we have made enough progress, both sets of dialogue will continue, including free trade". Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted past year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so.

A year has passed since voters chose to pull the United Kingdom out of the European Union, its most important export market.

The UK has made a major concession on the first day of Brexit talks, accepting that a trade deal can only be discussed after a multi-billion pound "divorce bill" is settled.

The Brussels talks began nearly a year after Britain unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the European Union and less than two weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May lost her overall majority in snap elections that raised questions about the stability of the government the European Union faces. In any case, European Union officials say, London no longer seems sure of what trade arrangements it will ask for.

"This is a technically hard issue but it is one which I am certain is soluble, although it will probably take us until the end of the process when we have already decided what our customs and free trade arrangements are". Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily won French legislative elections on June 18, cementing his power base.

Finally, they want to ensure that the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement between Ireland, and European Union member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, is not put in jeopardy.

Barnier has warned that the negotiations must be wrapped up by October 2018 to allow time for all parties to ratify a final accord by March 2019.