Britain and EU start his­toric Brexit talks

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - World - Agence France­Presse letters@hindustantimes.com

Britain and the Euro­pean Union be­gan their first for­mal Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions on Mon­day, un­der pres­sure to seal a deal amid dis­ar­ray in Lon­don over whether to go for a hard or soft di­vorce.

At stake is not just Britain’s fu­ture but also Europe’s post-war po­lit­i­cal or­der and its place in the world which could be fa­tally un­der­mined with­out an agree­ment by the March 2019 dead­line.

The EU’s chief ne­go­tia­tor, France’s Michel Barnier, wel­comed his coun­ter­part David Davis with a hand­shake and smiles for the press in the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s land­mark head­quar­ters in cen­tral Brus­sels flanked by the EU and Bri­tish flags. “To­day we are launch­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions on the or­derly with­drawal of the UK from the EU,” said Barnier, a for­mer Euro­pean com­mis­sioner and French foreign min­is­ter.

Their first task must be to “tackle the un­cer­tain­ties caused by Brexit,” he said, cit­ing the rights of EU cit­i­zens in Britain and the pos­si­ble im­pact on the open bor­der be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the repub­lic.

“I hope that to­day we can iden­tify pri­or­i­ties and a timetable to al­low me to re­port to (EU lead­ers) later this week (that) we had a con­struc­tive open­ing of ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Davis, a prom­i­nent tough-talk­ing fig­ure in the “Leave” cam­paign, sounded a pos­i­tive note too, say­ing “there is more that unites us than di­vides us.”

“In test­ing times like these we are re­minded of the val­ues and re­solve we share with our clos­est al­lies in Europe,” he said, re­fer­ring to the lat­est re­ported ter­ror at­tack overnight in Lon­don and the loss of lives in for­est fires in Portugal. Davis said the talks would be car­ried out in “a pos­i­tive and con­struc­tive tone,” with Britain seek­ing a “strong and spe­cial part­ner­ship for fu­ture.”

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