Finally, Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

A broken Union flag on the backdrop of the European flag

Ahead of their first formal Brexit talks in Brussels on Monday, European Union negotiators have admitted that they do not expect their British government counterparts to shed much light about what sort of future arrangement the United Kingdom hopes to have with the EU once it leaves the bloc.

However, Britain's negotiating leverage is, arguably at its weakest level in more than a decade after a shambolic snap election result for Prime Minister Theresa May, which surrendered her parliamentary majority and has left her floundering to cut a deal with lawmakers in Northern Ireland in order to stabilize her government, and the ongoing weakness of the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote. He and Davis are due to give a joint news conference in the evening.

Officials on both sides play down expectations for what can be achieved in one day.

He added: "It's not as if Europe is leaving Britain; Britain wants to leave the EU".

The European Union's chief negotiator Michel Barnier (R) speaks as British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis looks on during a statement before the negociation of brexit at the EU headquarters in Brussels on June 19, 2017.

While EU officials assume that Britain still wants to leave the EU completely, in line with the plan Mrs May's outlined in January, there are other options being planned. "These talks will be hard at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way".

Davis said the talks would be carried out in "a positive and constructive tone", with Britain looking to forge a "strong and special partnership for the future".

"I think the whole process will lead to a happy resolution which can be done with honour and profit to both sides", Johnson said.

With discontent in europhile Scotland and troubled Northern Ireland, which faces a new European Union border across the divided island, Brexit poses new threats to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Threats by Britain to walk away without a deal have also anxious European capitals.

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.

Brussels is also resisting British demands for immediate talks on a future free trade arrangement.

May herself will also have a chance to update the other 27 European Union leaders on her Brexit plans at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

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 per cent 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.

After the initial shock of last year's Brexit vote, the bloc at 27 appears to have steadied in recent months and got a real boost with the election of new French President Emmanuel Macron in May.



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