Brexit talks to get under way in Brussels

Brexit minister Davis 'No doubt' over Britain leaving EU

Brexit minister Davis 'No doubt' over Britain leaving EU

Such is the collapse of May's authority that her entire Brexit strategy is being picked apart in public by her ministers, her lawmakers and her allies on the eve of formal negotiations which begin in Brussels on Monday at 0900 GMT.

Speaking alongside EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier as they arrived for talks at the European Commission, Mr Davis said he expected "challenging times ahead" in talks expected to stretch for around 16-18 months ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the EU in 2019.

Barnier said there was agreement that the negotiators would first look at citizen's rights, the outstanding bill Britain must pay for previous European Union commitments and the Irish border issue.

"My clear view - and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain - is that we should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward", he said last week.

Mrs May has promised MPs a "take it or leave it" vote on whether to accept the deal or take Britain out of the European Union without agreement and fall back on World Trade Organisation rules. "It will mean we can work together to deliver a successful Brexit deal and a strong social legislative programme that delivers justice and opportunity to everyone". Barnier has said talks on a trade deal can not even start until sufficient progress has been made on the other issues.

"While there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear - a deep and special partnership between the United Kingdom and the EU.

We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit", said Barnier.

The European Court of Justice could be asked to rule on whether the deal requires approval by each EU state.

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.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted a year ago to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so - in a shock referendum result.

"We should be protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity", Hammond said as he arrived for a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Luxembourg.

"The clock is ticking", European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier told a joint news conference with Davis, adding that an orderly withdrawal was essential for both Britain and the EU.

Britain seems to have tacitly accepted the EU's plan for sequenced talks, which will focus first on the terms of Britain's withdrawal, with negotiations on a future relationship and trade deal coming later.

The third key issue is the future of the peace process in the British province of Northern Ireland, and the status of the border with the Republic of Ireland.

Despite signals from both France and Germany last week that Britain would still be welcome to stay if it changed its mind, Brexit minister David Davis insisted on Sunday there would be no turning back.

June 22 Mr Barnier reports back to the leaders of the EU27, who are expected to endorse a process for relocation of European Union agencies now based in the UK.

Ms May, whose future is uncertain after she lost her Conservative majority in an election this month, has insisted that trade talks start immediately and run in parallel.

While "Brexiteers" like Davis have strongly backed Ms May's proposed clean break with the single market and customs union, finance minister Philip Hammond and others have this month echoed calls by businesses for less of a "hard Brexit" and retaining closer customs ties.