Britain Kicks Off Brexit Talks With European Union

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams along with leader in the North Michelle O'Neill and deputy leader Mary Lou Mc Donald

"This first session was useful, we start off on the right foot as the clock is ticking", Barnier told a joint press conference with British counterpart David Davis.

The British and EU Brexit negotiators agreed how to organise talks on Britain's divorce at a first meeting in Brussels on Monday, where both sides stressed goodwill but also the huge complexity and tight deadline.

A terms of reference document setting out the rules for both sides also states: "For both parties the default is transparency".

"Both for the European Union and the UK, a fair deal is possible, and far better than no deal, that is what I say to David today, that is why we will work all the time with the UK and never against the UK", Michel Barnier said at a joint press conference with his British counterpart David Davis, after wrapping up the opening salvo of the Brexit talks in Brussels.

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

Previously, the United Kingdom had insisted on so-called parallel talks, in which both divorce terms and a future relationship would be covered simultaneously. Anything but the smallest "divorce payment" would be very hard politically for the government.

"To that end we are starting this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves, our European allies and friends".

Mr Barnier said they must ensure Brexit proceeds in an orderly manner. While Brexit is not on the agenda, she is expected to rub shoulders with other European Union leaders, providing her opportunities to discuss the U.K.'s impending departure.

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"We need back control of our borders, we will leave the single market and the customs union." he said.

The two sides have until March 2019 to complete and ratify a deal on the U.K.'s divorce from the European Union after more than four decades of membership and to try to shape a future partnership between Britain and its neighbors.

Britain enters the negotiations with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May facing huge political challenges at home following an election which saw her Conservative party lose its majority in Parliament.

Britain's political instability has caused concerns in European capitals hoping to get the negotiations over with quickly and cleanly, as has May's oft-repeated threat to walk away from the talks without a deal if necessary.

At present, banks and insurers in London serve the European Union market from a single base, but this "passporting" is set to end after Brexit without new arrangements.

A spokesman for the Department for Exiting the European Union said: "We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base. "That will be in our mutual interest, but we 27 will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully together".

That financial issue is already a bone of contention, as is Brussels' refusal to discuss a new free trade deal until after it is resolved.

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