Published: Sun, June 18, 2017
Hi-Tech | By Grace Becker

Brexit negotiations to start amid ongoing minority gov't talks

Talks restarted on Monday in Belfast, under Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire.

Britain's preparations for the complex Brexit talks have been thrown into turmoil after Prime Minister Theresa May failed to secure a parliamentary majority in a national election last week.

"Personally as somebody would have liked to see the United Kingdom staying in the EU I would always keep the hope alive and I think it's positive that European leaders are saying that it is still an option if the United Kingdom has a change of heart but as of now, I don't see it", she said.

"As we enter negotiations next week we will do so in a spirit of honest cooperation taking a pragmatic approach to trying to find a solution that works both for the United Kingdom and for the European Union 27", he said.

May's Conservatives need the support of the Protestant DUP's 10 MPs to have a majority in parliament, and some have called for the government to take a cross-party approach to Brexit given May's weakened position following the election.

"Our focus over the last couple of days has obviously been on the tragic fire a Grenfell Tower in West London and our thoughts are with the families of those who died and the community in that area", he said.

The Prime Minister has insisted the United Kingdom will leave the single market, replace customs union membership with a new deal and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Her spokesman said Britain would not change its stance on Brexit, though May told her lawmakers she would seek a broader consensus in the party on her approach. "The current uncertainty can not continue".

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The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier also warned Tuesday that time was passing.

He wouldn't be drawn on whether he supported Britain's continued membership in the single market and said Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government will negotiate in a "pragmatic" manner, striving for a solution that works for both sides.

"It's passing quicker than anyone believes. That's why we're ready to start very quickly".

European Union rules permit the two-year deadline to be extended if there is unanimous agreement but, she said, it comes down to what the United Kingdom wants and whether it makes sense to negotiate for a further six months or a year to agree an easy transition to a new arrangement.

Senior representatives from Northern Ireland's main political parties met May in London earlier.

Michelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland, said any deal between the Conservatives and the DUP "cannot be allowed to undermine" the province's peace accords.

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