Finally, Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

Failure to reach Brexit deal would be very bad for Britain warns Chancellor

The BBC has been told by European Union sources that the talks will follow the EU's preferred pattern of exit negotiations first, with the future relations between the two sides - including the free trade deal the United Kingdom is seeking - at a later date.

Davis and Barnier have one key issue over the first weeks of talks: building trust after months of haggling over leaks and figures over the final bill that Britain would have to pay for leaving. As in any divorce, count on both sides to be picky in splitting the goods and dues. "The question is not whether we are leaving the customs union".

"For me, it is above all about the EU27 proceeding together and listening carefully to Britain's wishes and expectations", Merkel said after meeting Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

It is clear: the EU27 has the power to decide when trade talks begin - not the UK. When one interviewer asked if he had been locked in a cupboard during the campaign by May's aides, he said with a smirk: "Not quite in a cupboard".

But according to the Belgian politician, there is a "serious chance" that Britain will remain in the European Union as the country does not have a strong mandate any more to begin the negotiations after the Conservative Party lost seats in the General Election.

But on Sunday, he also backed up May's approach, saying Britain would leave the single market and the customs union that sets external tariffs for goods imported into the bloc.

"So while there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens".

It's been a year in the making and, with never a boring moment, Brexit negotiations commence today, leaving the pound on tender hooks as the markets look to get a sense of how European Union negotiators will position themselves, the tone of the respective sides expected to be their signals of intent over the next 20-odd months.

Mr De Gucht said: "At this moment the European Commission is not only prepared for these negotiations, but also is doing some contingency planning for what to do if the entire negotiations collapse".

European People's Party caucus leader Manfred Weber told German radio station Bayern 2 Monday: "Our big problem is that we have no picture, no idea at all what the British want". In the year since 52 percent of voters confounded the experts by choosing to leave the bloc, the island nation has been increasingly destabilized just as the bonds of the 27 other European Union nations tightened.

"These talks will be hard at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way".

The Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz added: "One can not prolong indefinitely the state we're in; Brexit must be dealt with".

It is expected talks will take place once a month in Brussels as they work through the issues to be resolved.

"The most important thing now is for us to look to the horizon. think about the future, and think about the new partnership, the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends".

Still, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson remained upbeat Monday and thinks that the Brexit negotiations will yield "a happy resolution that can be done with profit and honor for both sides".

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, a European source said.

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