Britain and EU launch Brexit talks in Brussels

Brexit negotiations

Brexit negotiations

In a statement distributed to media on condition it not be published until 12:01 a.m., the United Kingdom government said: "The Brexit Secretary David Davis heads into tomorrow's first official talks to leave the European Union on a mission to deliver on the will of the British people".

Amid reports that May is set to make a "generous offer" on the rights of European Union citizens remaining in Britain, the source said London had been warned against doing so this week, on the grounds that it could drag up the thorny issue before talks had really got going.

The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he hoped they could agree a format and timetable on Monday.

Britain's negotiations with the European Union over its exit from the bloc begin on Monday and stand to be complicated by the surprise loss of Prime Minister Theresa May's parliamentary majority in a national election last week.

Both sides need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and the fifth largest global economy.

"I think the whole process will lead to a happy resolution which can be done with honour and profit to both sides", the Foreign Secretary said as he went into a separate meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg.

"I look forward to beginning work on that new future today".

Mr Barnier's insistence on sticking to the EU's priorities for the negotiations comes after Mr Davis appeared to soften his stance on the schedule for the talks.

'The UK will remain a committed partner and ally of our friends across the continent.

The talks expected to stretch for 16-18 months ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in 2019. 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. He added: "I think the Prime Minister has got us into a complete mess".

Other officials around the table include Glyn Williams, director-general at the Home Office, who will bring his expertise on immigration issues, and Catherine Webb, a former treasury official, who is director of Market Access at DExEU.

If anything, the title is even more of a mouthful than Davis's and in theory, Barnier has a more complex job in trying to reconcile the whims of 27 member states and face Britain with one voice.

In the past few days, the softly spoken Hammond, whose future as Chancellor seemed to hang in the balance before May lost her Conservative party's majority in this month's vote, has made clear the silence he kept during the campaign had ended. Talks must be wrapped up by the end of 2018 to allow the European and British Parliaments to rubber-stamp them, making it questionable May can secure what she wants in the timeframe allowed.

Davis was heartened by the spirit of the talks, during which the negotiators, both interested in mountaineering, exchanged a walking stick and a hiking book.

The talks will be in English and French, they said in a joint statement.

The 60-year-old prime minister emerged victorious from a bitter and divisive leadership battle after her predecessor, David Cameron, quit following Britain's vote a year ago to leave the EU.

One of the key issues likely to be discussed is the stalled European Union asylum reform on the Dublin regulation. The EU wants to deal with the first phase of divorce talks before moving on next year to discuss trade, though EU officials acknowledge that the agreements to be reached before Britain leaves can only be concluded as a whole package simultaneously. The EU says other key divorce issues must be settled first.