EU, Britain possible to strike 'fair deal'

It left an image of a dysfunctional Britain coming up against a well-oiled European Union negotiating machine.

Mr Barnier said it was important to tackle uncertainties caused by Brexit.

After Davis and Barnier met over lunch in the Commission's top floor dining rooms, their teams broke up into "working groups" that will be charged with handling specific areas of talks that the European Union expects to take place for a week every month.

It's possible for the European Union (EU) and Britain to strike a fair Brexit deal which is "far better than no deal", a European Union official said.

After the first day of the crucial negotiations which have the potential to shape the UK's economic and political future for a generation, it was agreed that working groups of officials would aim to make progress on the issues of citizens' rights, the UK's financial settlement, the so-called divorce bill, and other issues to do with separation.

While the European Union negotiating team led by Michel Barnier has been ready for months, Britain stalled even after it triggered the two-year process on March 29.

But the point was effectively conceded before talks began, with Mr Davis yesterday accepting an European Union timetable set out last week, which makes clear trade will only be discussed once "sufficient progress" is made on citizenship, Northern Ireland and a "single financial settlement" of as much as £88 billion. And just over a month ago, Mr Davis said dealing with the issue of how the talks would unfold would be the "row of the summer". "We must secure a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and enables us to become a truly global Britain". "It is not when it starts, it is how it finishes", he said.

"They should be agreed alongside each other, this is completely consistent with the Council's guidelines which state nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

Mr Davis said Britain hadn't backed down.

Frenchman Barnier struck a firm tone as he said the timetable for Britain's divorce after four troubled decades of membership made sense.

"It's not about punishment, it is not about revenge". We have taken the first, critical steps together.

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According to a recently released study (pdf), less than half of European Union citizens travel to other EU countries a couple of times every five years, and 37% have never visited another EU country at all. The negotiations opened against a backdrop of turmoil in the United Kingdom after May's decision to call an early vote to strengthen her position went spectacularly wrong and she was lambasted for her response to a horrific fire at a London tower block of social housing.

"And the consequences are substantial".

He said Prime Minister Theresa May will later this week update European leaders on Britain's approach on protecting citizen rights at the EU summit slated for Thursday and Friday.

In a nod to the difficulty of that issue, Mr Davis said it took up more time "than anything else". "The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty".

"In the first step, we will deal with the most pressing issues".

"Now, we have a shared responsibility to deliver quick and substantive progress".

"Michel and I will meet every four weeks bringing our teams together for a number of days at a time".

"This is a technically hard issue, but it's one which I am certain is soluble, although it will probably take us to the end of the process, when we have already decided what our customs and free trade arrangements are", Mr Davis said.

The talks will be in English and French, they said in a joint statement.

The terms of reference state "for both parties the default is transparency" and that it is for the side providing any information to state whether it should remain secret.

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