UK's Hammond says economy should be priority in Brexit talks

Marsha Scott
June 18, 2017

Ms Day expects the start of negotiations on Monday to be "an opening" and focused on "procedure rather than substance" and "setting out the ground rules".

"I think there is a unity of objective among people in the United Kingdom", May said following a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, he said: "The election has left our country yet more divided, right at the time when we most need unity".

Brexit negotiators will discuss Monday Britain's financial obligations to the European Union as the long, complicated and potentially perilous process of the United Kingdom leaving the bloc finally gets underway.

If May now sends a team to Brussels - ideally on schedule on Monday - that shows willing on the EU's priority "Phase One" issues, then trade talks could get under way by the turn of the year - a step-by-step timetable Barnier says must be followed to limit the risk of a disruptive "no deal".

The talks are being closely watched in European capitals as they could delay the expected start of Brexit negotiations next week, as well as change Britain's entire approach to its EU withdrawal.

A week after May lost her majority in an election she had called in the hope of strengthening her hand in the talks, some fellow Conservatives want her to focus more on limiting the damage to business and less on cutting immigration and other ties to the European Union when Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

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Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, echoing remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, said the door to Europe remained open to Britain, and it was up to the British people whether they wanted to change their minds about leaving the EU. "Party interest or national interest?"

Yet many of her lawmakers and party members favor a sharp break with the European Union - a sign of the divisions over Europe that helped sink the premierships of May's predecessors Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Cameron.

Brexit minister David Davis has insisted the approach to the European Union divorce has not changed, but May has recognized that a broader consensus needs to be built for Brexit and has made clear she would listen to all wings of the party on the issue.

May will also be reliant upon the 10 lawmakers from the eurosceptic DUP, who would help her edge past the 326 votes needed in parliament to avoid the government collapsing.

And as leaders welcomed the new tone in London and talk of a "softer Brexit" that may be less disruptive than May's clean break with the single market and customs union, officials from at least some governments saw compromise on the British bill.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also warned Tuesday that time was passing.

While the DUP are deeply eurosceptic, they have balked at some of the practical implications of a so-called hard Brexit - including a potential loss of a "frictionless border" with the Republic of Ireland - and talks will touch on efforts to minimize the potential damage to Northern Ireland.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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