Philip Hammond: UK must be pragmatic in Brexit talks

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in central London Britain

In the joint statement issued Thursday, officials said: "Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator and David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday June 19".

A week after May lost her majority in an election she had called in the hope of strengthening her hand in the talks, some fellow Conservatives want her to focus more on limiting the damage to business and less on cutting immigration and other ties to the European Union when Britain leaves the bloc in March 2019.

There are also differences over the other priority issue for Brussels - securing the rights of 3 million European Union citizens living in Britain - but diplomats see those as less problematic.

Britain's finance minister said Friday that jobs and growth should be the priority when Brexit negotiations begin next week, indicating that the weakened government in London might be softening its tone with Brussels.

His comments are likely to be seen as a further indication he is pressing for the Government to take a "softer" line on Brexit than the immigration-driven approach previously set out by Theresa May.

Philip Hammond, Britain's finance minister, says protecting the British economy should be the main goal of upcoming negotiations over the country's exit from the European Union.

Prompted by her poor election showing, particularly among pro-EU young people who fear losses of jobs and opportunity for Brexit, some of her most senior ministers and two former Conservative prime ministers have called for a rethink.

Arriving to a meeting with his counterparts in the 28-country EU, Hammond said his "clear view" is "we should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward".

"We want to end the anxiety facing 4 million citizens", he said.

Brexit negotiations are moving ahead against a backdrop of major splits in the Conservatives over just how to approach European negotiators.

Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael said: "The Conservatives can not go from weak and wobbly to business as usual in three days".

The Liberal Democrats, the fourth-biggest group in the British parliament, urged May to form a cross-party committee to negotiate Brexit.

The EU has insisted that this sequence involve sorting out Britain's departure and urgent issues like the rights of citizens affected by Brexit before the shape of future ties or trade are discussed.

"In my experience recently, businesses that look over the garden fence have gone: "Hmm, (the) grass is not quite as dark and unforgiving as you might expect", Andrew told the BBC.

Related News: