Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

Angelica Greene
June 19, 2017

Anxious by mass immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain a year ago voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result.

The chancellor said this morning he "didn't recognise" the sums of money being discussed by the European Union in relation to Brexit.

An early election this month, in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority, only added to the problems.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the party is meeting Mrs May to aid the process of restoring power-sharing in Northern Ireland.

The government is due to present its programme at the opening of parliament on Wednesday, which will be followed by a key confidence vote days later.

Prompted by her poor election showing, particularly among pro-EU young people who fear losses of jobs and opportunity from Brexit, some of her most senior ministers and two former Conservative prime ministers have called for a rethink.

The government s current weakness has fuelled criticism of its approach to Brexit and given rise to notions that the government might pursue a softer tone.

Spin from sources close to Mr Davis over the weekend suggests that he is willing to make "major" concessions in accepting that timeframe on Monday, and in accepting that the initial discussions will not come up with a financial settlement but a means of calculating it - positions that have been widely acknowledged informally in Brussels for some time although the British had soken bublicly of their hope that the talks would be simultaneous, in parallel.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, who is newly influential after winning 13 seats in Scotland, has said Britain should prioritise "freedom to trade and our economic growth".

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A lackluster campaign saw her high approval rating slip away, and support for her "hard Brexit" strategy - pulling out of the European single market and customs union - now hangs in the balance. "That's a statement of legal fact", he said.

Ordinary Britons are also beginning to feel the cost of Brexit because of higher import prices caused by a plunge in the pound and businesses are increasingly anxious about losing trade access.

But Hammond said transitional arrangements would be necessary, to give business greater certainty.

Despite signals from both France and Germany last week that Britain would still be welcome to stay if it changed its mind, Brexit minister David Davis insisted on Sunday there would be no turning back.

The EU wants to deal with the first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to discuss trade, though EU officials acknowledge that the agreements to be reached before Britain leaves can only be concluded as a whole package simultaneously.

The Chancellor says no deal would be "very, very, bad" for Britain.

"We would restore faith in politics if we could show that this parliament can at least function in presenting a view in the national interest which would command a majority on a cross-party basis", said pro-European Conservative lawmaker Ken Clarke.

The government on Saturday said parliament would hold a special two-year session starting this week, sitting for double the normal time to allow it to overhaul European Union legislation.

International Trade Minister Liam Fox will travel to Washington on Monday to explore new trade ties - although no formal negotiations are possible until Britain has actually left the bloc.

Other reports by GizPress

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