Brexit talks start as war breaks out among United Kingdom ministers

Lucy Bush
July 18, 2017

In Brussels, Davis acknowledged it was "incredibly important" to make progress, "that we negotiate through this and identify the differences so that we can deal with them and identify the similarities so that we can reinforce them".

Davis said it is "time to get down to work" and make negotiations a success.

While the EU Commission negotiators each sat with a stack of briefing papers in front of them, the United Kingdom delegation had none, leading to speculation on Twitter as to whether they had actually brought any.

Mr Barnier said: "I look forward to our negotiations this week".

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The EU has demonstrated increasing confidence in recent weeks, accusing Britain of dithering over whether it wants a "hard" or "soft" Brexit more than a year after the shock referendum that propelled May to power.

The negotiations this week are expected to focus on the post-Brexit rights of citizens in each other's nations, the bill Britain has to pay to meet existing commitments, the border issue in Ireland and the pre-eminence of the EU's Court of Justice.

Even though May had insisted that the Brexit process can't be reversed, her government will not be able to pursue the firm Brexit line she favored, following an undesired result of the June snap election, in which her party lost majority in the House of Commons.

Finance minister Philip Hammond, who, like May, campaigned previous year to keep Britain in the European Union, accused unnamed colleagues of trying to undermine what is seen as his push for a "soft Brexit" that prioritises trade rather than hardliners' demands for controls on European Union immigration or an end to European Union legal oversight.

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The British proposal offers European Union nationals who have lived in Britain for at least five years - as of an unspecified cutoff date - the right to live, work and access benefits.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson had earlier said the European Union could "go whistle" for its money in reaction to financial demands.

Hammond, a potential rival to May, acknowledged that ministers were divided on many elements of Brexit, after weekend newspapers were filled with reports of infighting.

Finance chief Philip Hammond said on July 16 that Britain will take responsibility for the money it owes, saying, "We're not a country that walks away from its debts". The EU has publicized its preferred agenda, which includes the settlement of issues including citizens' rights and financial obligations, before discussions turn to trade agreements.

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