BRUSSELS – Talks on Britain leaving the European Union began Monday with both sides saying they will focus first on an orderly withdrawal: a deal for citizens living in each other’s territory, border arrangements between Ireland and the U.K. and the amount that Britain will pay to get out of previous EU commitments.
Both EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis said after the first negotiating session they were confident of quick progress but said major challenges lay ahead to meet the deadline of March 2019 for Britain to officially leave the bloc.
“In the first step, we will deal with the most pressing issues. We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit,” said Barnier. “In a second step, we will scope our future partnership.”
From his comments, it appeared that the Brexit talks will largely follow the EU’s conditions and will center on the two sides’ new relationship only once sufficient progress has been made on the withdrawal issues.
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.
Barnier said there will be one week of negotiations every month and the two sides will use the time in between to work out proposals. Both sides will put top advisers to work immediately on a border agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom, aiming to make sure the Irish peace agreement and the common travel area…