Published: Mon, July 17, 2017
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Round 1: Brexit talks start at Brussels

Round 1: Brexit talks start at Brussels

After a June snap election in which May's Conservatives lost their majority, her cabinet appears bitterly divided over the type of outcome it wants from the Brexit talks.

They want to frustrate Brexit.

With little more than a year to decide the terms before Britain leaves, deal or no deal, on 30 March, 2019, the 27 other European Union national leaders want British Prime Minister Theresa May to rally her polarised nation - and her fractious cabinet - swiftly behind a clear, detailed Brexit plan.

European diplomats fear the United Kingdom is continuing to box itself into an uncompromising position and are expecting it to push back strongly on the court, as both sides map out their differences in detail during the negotiations.

Asides from the exit bill, the four-day negotiation will focus on citizens' rights and the border in Northern Ireland, among other issues.

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".

Twice in as many days, newspapers ran hostile stories about Hammond from last week's cabinet meeting, leaked by other ministers at the table.

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These ranged from claiming that public sector workers were "overpaid" to saying that driving a train was so easy "even a woman" could do it.

Hammond told BBC1's Andrew Marr show: "If you want my opinion, some of the noise is generated by people who are not happy with the agenda that I have".

"I do think on many fronts it would be helpful if my colleagues - all of us - focused on the job at hand", he told the BBC. UK's negotiating chief is expected to return to Brussels to wrap up the second round of talks and assess this negotiating week alongside Barnier at the Berlaymont press room. These two key players will meet regularly through the week, with the aim of keeping the talks on track.

Mr Barnier, who has made clear that he is not prepared to start talks on a trade deal until there has been sufficient progress on the financial settlement, retorted icily he could not hear any whistling, "just the clock ticking". British officials have scoffed at the rumored asking price of the Brexit bill going around the European Union, and the negotiating teams found Ireland to the most challenging subject when they met last month.

'We made a good start last month, and this week we'll be getting into the real substance, ' he said.

On Sunday, the former Tory chair Chris Patten warned that the Brexit deadlock represented one of the bleakest moments in British postwar history.

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