David Davis says 'more unites European allies than divides' as he kicks off Brexit talks
David Davis insisted there is "more that unites" European states than divides them as he kicked off the first round of Brexit talks in Brussels this morning.
In the wake of the suspected terror attack outside a Mosque in North London the Brexit Secretary spoke of the “resolve that we share with our closest allies in Europe”.
A year after the vote to quit the EU, Mr Davis and the bloc’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier will today begin to hammer out the terms of the UK’s departure.
The rights of EU nationals living in Britain – and those of Britons 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.
Mr Davis travelled to Brussels just hours after a van ploughed into a group of pedestrians in Finsbury Park, killing one person and injuring several more.
He made reference to that incident as well as a devastating forest fire in Portugal at the weekend that left 62 people dead.
Mr Davis said: “Our thoughts this morning are rightly with the victims and families of the awful attack in London early this morning and of course also with those who have lost loved ones in Portugal.
“It’s at testing times like these that we are reminded of the values and the resolve that we share with our closest allies in Europe.
“There is more that unites us than divides us. So while there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations, we will do all that we can to ensure that we deliver a deal that works in the best interest of all citizens.”
He added: “To that end, we start this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves and our European allies and friends.”
Mr Barnier said: “My very first words are to express my deep sympathies to the British people, that you face tragic events. Just as I want to express our solidarity to the Portuguese people.”
He added: “Our objective is clear, we must first tackle uncertainties caused by Brexit.
“First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of EU policies and the impact on borders, in particular 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.
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.
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."