Second round of Brexit talks start amid sense of urgency

Bruno Cirelli
Luglio 17, 2017

Brexit Secretary David Davis, arriving in Brussels this morning, told waiting media: Now it's time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation.

Brexit minister David Davis met Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, to try to push through a deal ahead of Britain's withdrawal from the bloc, scheduled for March 2019.

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

Davis is in a rush to move talks toward the crucial issue of future trade even as open divisions in the cabinet back home make it hard for Europe to know what Britain wants.

Citizens' rights, Northern Ireland, the Brexit bill, and separation issues will be discussed this week.

Davis is also now echoing Barnier's refrain that the time left to get a deal is slipping away and common ground must be found swiftly.

Hammond, a potential rival to May, acknowledged that ministers were divided on many elements of Brexit, after weekend newspapers were filled with reports of infighting.

"In another part of town today I am very pleased that negotiations are beginning; as you know a very fair serious offer has been put on the table by the U.K.", Johnson said.

"I hope very much that people will look at the offer in the spirit it deserves". That was a reminder of a gulf in perceptions across the Channel where European Union leaders have assumed from the outset that Britain would need more than the two years allowed by treaty to negotiate the deal it wants to retain close, open trading links with the continent.

Barnier's deputy, Sabine Weyand, and the permanent secretary of the United Kingdom department for exiting the EU, Olly Robbins, will focus on the issue of Ireland on Tuesday and meet regularly throughout the week.

All of the topics have created controversy, as European Parliament lawmakers criticized the U.K.'s "settled status" offer on EU residents in the United Kingdom, threatening to veto any Brexit deal if the offer isn't improved.

May's decision to activate the EU's exit clause three months ago means that the United Kingdom will leave the bloc with or without a deal in March 2019. At that point, Barnier hopes to be able to show "significant progress" on the divorce priorities for European Union leaders to give him a mandate to launch negotiations on a future free trade agreement. "We need to examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress", Barnier told reporters.

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