German minister sees hope of 'soft' Brexit

German minister sees hope of 'soft' Brexit

But in a statement, officials said: "David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Michel Barnier, the European Commission's chief negotiator, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday, June 19".

One of the more notable aspects of what will be a historic occasion is that the negotiating round will take place before U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has finalized a power-sharing agreement, made necessary by her party's election losses this month, that will allow her to lead a minority government.

May's strategy was thrown into confusion by last week's election in which she squandered her Conservative Party's parliamentary majority.

The British and EU Brexit negotiators agreed how to organise talks on Britain's divorce at a first meeting in Brussels on Monday, where both sides stressed goodwill but also the huge complexity and tight deadline.

"Let's start the negotiations, and at the end we will always come to reasonable decisions", he said.

Though less visibly upbeat than veteran Brexit campaigner Davis, Barnier insisted the two sides would work together for a "fair deal" that would not "punish" Britain.

"These talks will be hard at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way".

That the British were ready to break negotiations down on the lines of priorities identified by Brussels implied, he said, a willingness to start a first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to a second phase on the new free trade relationship May wants - a "sequencing" London has disputed.

Speaking ahead of a meeting with other European Union leaders in Brussels on Friday, Mr Hammond said: "We've set out very clearly our desired outcome in the Prime Minister's Lancaster House speech and in the Article 50 letter that we've sent".

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Mr Davis will be accompanied by a nine-strong negotiating team that includes the most senior civil servants at the department as well as officials from the Treasury and Home Office as well as Mark Sedwill, the national security adviser to the prime minister.

Britain starts formal talks to leave the European Union today, seeking a deal "like no other in history" despite entering fiendishly hard negotiations with a badly weakened government. The UK is unable to sign such deals while it remains a member of the European Union but can explore options and develop ties.

It is also 82 days after Theresa May sent a letter formally notifying the European Council of Britain's intention to withdraw.

Brussels is primarily interested in the guarantees for citizens of EU States living in the United Kingdom and run this country all financial commitments undertaken as a member of the European Union.

With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens' rights, though the two sides are some way apart. He added: "Brexit won't make anything better, but it will make a lot of things more hard". But there is also incredulity that the British government is preparing to go into the talks with a hard-line negotiating position when it can not command a majority at home.

Davis, a prominent tough-talking figure in the "Leave" campaign, sounded a positive note, saying that while there would "undoubtedly be challenging times ahead" he wanted a good relationship with the EU.

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.

When 52 percent of British voters opted for Brexit, some feared for the survival of a Union battered by the euro crisis and divided in its response to chaotic immigration.

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