Talks on British exit from European Union begin in Brussels

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier met for lunch, marking the start of the talks by exchanging gifts related to their shared love of mountaineering.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she hopes for a "good agreement" after Brexit talks in which 27 European Union countries will listen carefully to what Britain wants but also defend their own interests.

After nearly a year of waffling, Britain finally opens negotiations with its European Union counterparts on Monday about leaving the bloc, The Associated Press reported.

But that entire approach has come under question following the June 8 general election in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her centre-right Conservative party's parliamentary majority.

Only when "sufficient, concrete progress" on the first phase has been made will Mr Barnier recommend to the European Council that the negotiations can enter the next stage, taking in the future trading relationship, with that recommendation possibly coming at October's summit of EU leaders.

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

Davis is to meet Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, to kick off hugely complex withdrawal negotiations that are expected to conclude within two years. "My personal view is we will see a result that will be fair ultimately for both sides because it's not within either sides' interest for it not to be fair". The talks will be hard, but he is expecting that all points will be approached in a constructive way. However, in a significant concession, Britain's negotiators have now agreed to an European Union demand to delay talks on a new trading relationship.

There will be haggling over the terms, over money, but "the most important thing is to raise our eyes to the future. and think about the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends", he said.

Those were, he said, the rights of expatriate citizens and problems of a new EU-UK border, notably cutting across Ireland.

He said he wanted post-Brexit trade with the European Union that was not just free from tariffs but also delays and bureaucracy.

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

The UK wants to begin working out the details of a trade agreement alongside the terms of the withdrawal process.

He went on to say it would be best if Britain did not leave the European Union at all, and while he admitted it did not seem likely "at the moment", he added: "But we want to keep the door open for the British".

"Anything about industry, it's about consumer confidence and if we have strong consumer confidence in the United Kingdom we tend to grow as a country and that is going to be the absolute key", he added.

The government is due to present its legislative programme at the opening of parliament on Wednesday, which will be followed by a key confidence vote several days later.

"The position we have agreed today is completely consistent with our long-standing position we have set out on article 50". Any opinions expressed herein are in good faith, but are subject to change without notice.

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