Britain begins Brexit negotiations with EU

"We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit-first for citizens but also for the beneficiaries of the European Union policies and for the impact on borders", Barnier said.

Arriving in Brussels to meet with the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, Brexit secretary David Davis said he wanted to approach talks in a "positive and constructive" manner.

Britain now appears to have given in on the EU's insistence that the negotiations first focus on three key divorce issues, before moving on to the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.

For that reason, Brussels wants as a priority to guarantee rights for 3 million European Union citizens in Britain and be paid tens of billions of euros it says London will owe on its departure.

Previously, the United Kingdom had insisted on so-called parallel talks, in which both divorce terms and a future relationship would be covered simultaneously.

Mr Barnier said: "There is a very, very sensitive political dimension to this".

Mr Davis said he expected "challenging times ahead" in talks expected to stretch for around 16-18 months ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the European Union in 2019.

A terms-of-reference document agreed by Mr Barnier and Mr Davis said further talks would be held in the weeks starting on July 17, Aug 28, Sept 18 and Oct 9. "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".

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Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted last June to become the first nation ever to leave the 28-nation EU.

The Brussels talks began nearly a year after Britain unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the European Union and less than two weeks after Prime Minister Theresa May lost her overall majority in snap elections that raised questions about the stability of the government the European Union faces. EU nations and the European Parliament will have to approve any future deal and that can take months.

Sigmar Gabriel also indicated a deal could be done on the jurisdiction of the European Court, allowing Theresa May to fulfil her pledge to end its jurisdiction while also meeting the EU's needs.

"We are ready to make this work but if we don't have a reliable and strong and stable opposite number, it puts the process at risk".

The EU appear to have claimed the first victory of the talks.

Only once the EU27 determine that "sufficient progress" has been made on these issues will talks be able to progress to a second phase, where the two sides will begin to scope out the future of their relationship.

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.

"So we have got a very sensitive political context, a very clear objective which is to preserve all the dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement and we have an bad lot of work to do - bilaterally, and also in coordination with the Dublin government on my side, so that we come up with imaginative and concrete solutions along the lines I have described, particularly taking into account the single market".

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