Brexit negotiations begin: David Davis targets 'historic' deal

Earlier, Mr Hammond told the BBC's Marr programme: "We're leaving the EU and because we are leaving the EU, we will be leaving the single market and by the way, we will be leaving the customs union".

Last year's Brexit vote came as a profound shock to Brussels against a backdrop of rising anti-EU sentiment, with many - including now US President Donald Trump - predicting the bloc's eventual break-up.

Britain kicks off its formal European Union exit talks Monday, almost a year after the country voted to leave the bloc, amid a backdrop of domestic political chaos, a weakening economy, a spate of deadly terrorist attacks and simmering social tensions following a fatal fire in a government-run housing project.

A beaming Brexit Secretary David Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, told a sombre Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, that his team aimed to maintain a "positive and constructive tone" during "challenging" talks ahead in the hope of reaching a deal that was in the interests of both sides.

Subjects for the negotiations, which officially start in Brussels later, include the status of expats, the UK's "divorce bill" and the Northern Ireland border.

The EU insists that only when "substantial progress" is made on all three will it be possible to engage in the other main strand of talks - on trade.

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Before the election, May proposed a clean break from the European Union: leaving its single market, which enshrines free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and proposing limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

The chancellor undermined the British prime minister's mantra that "no deal is better than a bad deal" on the eve of Britain's Brexit talks, after he suggested that "no deal would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain".

"This is a deal that when finally agreed will matter fundamentally for the UK economy, for UK companies and for citizens of the UK".

A bigger problem may be for British negotiators to resolve what trade relationship they want.

Speaking at the Elysee Presidential Palace, Macron stated that once the process to leave the 28-member bloc started, the rest of the European Union members should be collectively clear that it would be harder to reverse such a course.

Many in Britain have seen the election result as repudiating May's threats to walk away without a deal.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond, who is regarded as a "soft Brexiteer", said on Sunday that the United Kingdom would definitely leave both the single market and the customs union, but said it made sense to put transitional arrangements in place to lessen the immediate impact on businesses.

The opening of the negotiations will take place at the European Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels and will be a one-day event, starting at approximately 11h.

Sabine Weyand: Mr Barnier's deputy, a trilingual German-born trade specialist who studied English literature, political science and economics at university, and spent time as a student at Cambridge.

He will go head to head with chief European Union negotiator Michel Barnier for the first time in a day of discussions.

Meantime, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said his aim for Monday would be for Britain to agree to a format and timetable. Macron said that the EU's door has always been open for Britain should it abandon plans for its Brexit.

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