British expats top agenda as European Union kicks off Brexit talks

British expats top agenda as European Union kicks off Brexit talks

British expats top agenda as European Union kicks off Brexit talks

Nearly exactly a year after Britain's seismic referendum to leave the bloc, the EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier of France, welcomed his counterpart David Davis with a cheery handshake at the European Commission in Brussels.

Anxious by mass immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain past year voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-nation bloc in a shock referendum result.

Most commentators believe the vote sent a message that the British public do not want a "hard Brexit" - quitting all aspects of the EU, closing the borders to free movement, walking away from the European courts, abandoning the single market and customs union. But the disastrous outcome of the June 8 snap election, which left her without a majority in the House of Commons, has raised doubts over whether she will even be able to see the two-year process through.

May has clung on to power since the election but has so far failed to strike an agreement with Northern Ireland's ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party that would allow her to govern.

The government is due to present its legislative programme at the opening of parliament on Wednesday, which will be followed by a key confidence vote several days later.

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Mr Lighthizer said: " As the United States' fifth largest export market, the United Kingdom is an invaluable trading partner. The pair met briefly in November, but will have plenty of time to develop a personal chemistry over the coming months.

The agenda of the first round of talks is set to focus on "citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks", according to the EU Commission.

"An overly blinkered approach focused on simply cutting immigration to tens of thousands and focusing only on high skilled employees could leave employers high and dry, especially those who rely on European Union migrants to fill low-skilled jobs", Davies said.

His initial bullish stance has been tempered with experience in Government and he has already acknowledged it could take "years and years" to bring immigration down, and suggested the United Kingdom may have to pay for access to the single market.

Business group London First added this morning: "If a comprehensive deal isn't reached by March 2019, we need transitional arrangements that ensure British jobs, growth or living standards aren't threatened while negotiations continue".

The negotiations kick off in Brussels on Monday with Britain under pressure for stalling the talks and entering the negotiations without a working parliamentary majority fully in place.

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Those issues are Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros ($112 billion), the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Britain and the European Union are already at odds over the order of the talks, with London insisting future trade ties should be discussed at the same time as the divorce despite opposition from Brussels.

And then there is the "divorce bill". "A deal like no other in history", Davis said in a statement as he headed into the first meeting, PTI reported earlier on Monday.

"No deal would be very, very bad outcome for Britain", Hammond said Sunday.

The chancellor said he would reject any deal "designed to destroy us".

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The British government plans to have the next Parliament hold a two-year session to deal with the expected onslaught of Brexit-related legislation.

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