David Davis to kick off Brexit talks in Brussels
Brexit Secretary David Davis will travel to Brussels today to begin the historic negotiations that will deliver Britain’s exit from the European Union.
A year after the vote to quit the EU, Mr Davis will meet chief negotiator Michel Barnier to hammer out the terms of the UK’s departure from the bloc.
The rights of EU nationals living in Britain – and those of Brits living in EU states – is set to be one of the first items on the negotiation agenda.
Other key issues to be tackled early on include settling Britain’s financial commitments to the bloc – dubbed the Brexit ‘divorce bill’ – and the nature of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
According to the BBC the two sides will begin to talk about the future trading relationship in October if good progress has been made on the exit arrangements.
In a statement ahead of the talks, Mr Davis insisted Brits were “not turning our backs on Europe”.
“It’s vital that the deal we strike allows both the UK and the EU to thrive, as part of the new deep and special partnership we want with our closest allies and friends,” he said.
“These talks will be difficult at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way.”
And he added: “There should be no doubt – we are leaving the European Union, and delivering on that historic referendum result.
“Now, the hard work begins. We must secure a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and enables us to become a truly global Britain.”
Ministers are set to announce a so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’, which will transpose EU laws onto the UK statute book, as part of the Queen’s Speech on Wednesday.
But after losing her majority at last week’s general election, Theresa May is expected to soften her stance on some aspects of the Brexit negotiations.
The Prime Minister has frequently said that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, but yesterday Chancellor Philip Hammond said quitting the bloc without an agreement would be “a very bad outcome for Britain” and preferable only to a deliberately punitive arrangement.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer meanwhile hit out at the Government's withdrawal position amid the challenges it has faced over the past week.
"I think the prime minister has got us into a complete mess," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.
"She's got no mandate here and she's got no authority abroad and the negotiation starts tomorrow."
Meanwhile, an EU diplomat told the Guardian there were concerns the Government's instability could damage the talks and lead to the UK crashing out with no deal.
“You still have those in the Conservative party hell-bent on a hard Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn is smelling power and doesn’t seem particularly interested in helping out – quite the opposite,” they said.
“We are ready to make this work but if we don’t have a reliable and strong and stable opposite number, it puts the process at risk.”