United Kingdom hope for Brexit deal like 'no other'

Negotiator for the EU, Michel Barnier, said he hoped the initial talks would focus on a timeline for the negotiations and priorities for it.

With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens' rights, though the two sides are some way apart.

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

Both EU negotiator Michel Barnier and his British counterpart David Davis said after the first negotiating session they were confident of quick progress but said major challenges lay ahead to meet the deadline of March 2019 for Britain to officially leave the bloc.

"Today marks the start of a journey for the United Kingdom and the EU".

Last year's Brexit vote came as a profound shock to Brussels against a backdrop of rising anti-EU sentiment, with many - including now US President Donald Trump - predicting the bloc's eventual break-up.

The UK wants to begin working out the details of a trade agreement alongside the terms of the withdrawal process.

Prime Minister Theresa May had taken a hard-line approach on leaving the European Union but a disastrous election result for her Conservative party on June 8 has left London's policy in disarray and her own political future uncertain.

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The National Pig Association (NPA) has outlined its priorities for the pig sector as formal Brexit negotiations begin. "It's a statement of common sense that if we are going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not a cliff edge".

However, not much clarity was provided immediately after the first official meeting of the EU-UK sides. Mr Hammond also said that while he believed failure to reach a deal with the European Union "would be a very, very bad outcome for Britain", a possible worse outcome would be "a deal that is deliberately structured to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time".

In a sign of the progress that has been made, Mr Davis said the Prime Minister would brief fellow European Union leaders at a summit on Thursday on the UK's approach to the rights of expatriate citizens, which will be set out in detail in a paper on Monday.

"The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", rather than tackle the big hard issues right at the start, a European source said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is considered one of the driving forces behind the European Union, said on Monday that she hoped negotiations would secure a "good agreement" for both parties but reiterated the unity of remaining member states.

"Northern Ireland is very complex and sensitive and we take it extremely seriously", Davis said. For the officials sitting down on Monday, at least on the European Union side, a major worry is Britain crashing out into a limbo, with no deal.

However, EU leaders are also said to be determined not to allow concessions to Britain that might encourage others to quit.

The Brexit Secretary gave a glimpse into the first day of talks, saying more time had been spent discussing Ireland than any other issue.

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