Second round of Brexit talks start amid sense of urgency

Theresa May and her Cabinet

Theresa May and her Cabinet

Brexit Secretary David Davis will hold fresh talks with the European Commission's chief negotiator today, just a day after the cabinet's deep policy split was revealed by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Following this, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the European Union can "go whistle" if they expect a hefty divorce bill from Britain, to which Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, replied by saying he couldn't hear any whistling, but could hear "the clock ticking".

U.K. Secretary of State David Davis said at the start of the four-day session Monday that "it is incredibly important we now make good progress".

"Now it's time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation", he said before Davis and Barnier headed off for talks.

The British side had urged over the past months an immediate start of trade talks, but Barnier had insisted that key issues of Brexit must be dealt with before trade talks begin.

The EU has made much of the early running by agreeing its positions on the issues up for debate as well as forcing the United Kingdom into its schedule of discussing "divorce" issues such as citizens' rights and financial obligations before moving on to a future trade arrangement.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who was also in Brussels, emphasized the British offer on citizens' rights, calling it "very fair" and "serious". At that point, Barnier hopes to be able to show "significant progress" on the divorce priorities for European Union leaders to give him a mandate to launch negotiations on a future free trade agreement. He added that Britain's proposal to safeguard the rights of European citizens is "good" and "I hope very much that people will look at that offer in the spirit it deserves".

May's minority government remains fragile one month after the snap June 8 election in which her Conservative Party lost its majority, forcing it to seek an alliance with Northern Ireland's small ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party.

The Telegraph reported an unidentified cabinet minister using expletive-filled language to accuse Hammond of treating colleagues who supported the Leave campaign, such as Davis, like "pirates who have taken him prisoner". "Over the last few weeks, I've tried to advance ensuring that we achieve a Brexit that is focused on protecting our economy, protecting our jobs and making sure that we can have continued rising standards in the future". "The clock is ticking", he said once again last Wednesday.

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