So it begins: Britain kicks off Brexit negotiations with EU

Sigmar Gabriel speaks during a press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin Germany. Gabriel and Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern have voiced

Sigmar Gabriel speaks during a press conference at the ministry of foreign affairs in Berlin Germany. Gabriel and Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern have voiced

Nearly a year after the vote for Brexit, detailed talks have started in Brussels over the form of Britain's departure from the European Union.

"It is at testing times like these that we are reminded of the values and the resolve we share with our closest allies in Europe", the British minister charged with negotiating the deal, David Davis, said Monday alongside his European Union negotiating counterpart, Michel Barnier.

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The longtime advocate of Britain quitting the European Union was a natural choice to lead the British government's new department overseeing the Brexit talks.

The European Commission released a statement at the time saying discussions would focus on "issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks".

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

In Brussels, Davis and Barnier meet with the United Kingdom keen to win back sovereignty without hurting its economy, while the EU's aim is to maintain regional stability and stop inadvertently rewarding Britain's decision to leave for fear of encouraging others to break away.

In addition, unidentified sources told The Times that Hammond would urge the government to rethink its plan to leave the trade group, which guarantees tariff-free trade with other members but bans trade deals with third parties.

"That position hasn't changed, it's the same as it was before", said Davis, a tough-talking figure in the "Leave" campaign in last year's Brexit referendum.

The UK Government had wanted the talks to take place in parallel but has now accepted the timetable set out by the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Finance Minister Philip Hammond confirmed Sunday that Britain would be leaving not just the EU but also the single market and the customs union.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted past year to end their country's four-decade membership in the 28-country bloc - the first nation ever to do so.

May had promised to take Britain completely out of the bloc's common trading area and slash the number of people coming from the EU. An early election this month, in which British Prime Minister Theresa May lost her Conservative majority in parliament, only added to the problems.

Johnson also urged Europeans to look further down the road. A tenth (11 per cent) of the more than 1,000 organisations surveyed said the number of European Union nationals they have recruited since the referendum has decreased.

He added: "The United Kingdom has chose to leave the European Union, it is not the other way around". Such conversations mark a shift from the pre-election talk of a "hard Brexit" and May's onetime warning she would walk away from the talks if disappointed.

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

In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised the unity of the remaining 27 European Union countries, who have been alarmed in recent weeks by May's threats to walk out of the talks.

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "If we don't succeed, both sides will lose". "That will be in our mutual interest, but we 27 will formulate our interests very clearly and hopefully together".

Yet many in Brussels fear that London has no real strategy, with May under pressure at home, still trying to close a deal with a conservative Northern Ireland party to stay in power, and facing criticism for her handling of the aftermath of a devastating tower block fire.

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