UK's Hammond says economy should be priority in Brexit talks

EU’s Guy Verhofstadt says uncertainty over UK’s Brexit stance ‘cannot continue

Brexit negotiators will discuss Monday Britain's financial obligations to the European Union as the long, complicated and potentially perilous process of the United Kingdom leaving the bloc finally gets underway.

If the chastened prime minister and Brexit Secretary David Davis take a gentler tone when talks finally launch in Brussels next week, they could win valuable concessions, some think.

The EU has insisted that this sequence involve sorting out Britain's departure and urgent issues like the rights of citizens affected by Brexit before the shape of future ties or trade are discussed.

The fact Davis agreed to an agenda on Monday that will see him and British officials spend some seven hours in the European Union executive's headquarters discussing who will talk to whom when and about what has come as a relief to some European Union negotiators.

The Commission said the high-priority issue of the shared border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, an European Union member, will also be discussed.

Now the Tories are seeking an agreement with Northern Ireland's DUP in order to form a government.

"Our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other".




"I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of how we propose to take that discussion forward", he said.

British finance minister Philip Hammond said Britain should adopt a pragmatic approach to Brexit negotiations which begin on Monday, striking a different tone to Prime Minister Theresa May who has threatened to leave the European Union without a deal if necessary. "It's our dominating theme today and will remain so over the weekend as bodies are recovered and we start to get a sense of the scale of the tragedy".

For another, the combination of finally launching talks on Monday and May being at the summit on Thursday and Friday made the coming week a key opportunity to "rebuild trust" after tempers had boiled over on both sides in recent months.

After a tumultuous week that pitched Britain into its deepest political crisis since the Brexit referendum a year ago, May's future was uncertain, darkened by her botched gamble on a snap election and muted response to a deadly fire in London.

The withdrawal and future are intimately linked."EU leaders have given chief Brussels negotiator Michel Barnier no authority to so much as talk about future trade with Britain until he clinches outline deals on Brussels' priority issues, including London's exit bill.Addressing her party on Monday after one of its most memorable electoral failures, May said she would take a broader, more consultative approach to the Brexit talks.But after a generation of discord over Europe inside her party, May's future could depend on her ability to please both the eurosceptic and pro-European factions in her party". "We want to end the anxiety facing 4 million citizens".

They face massive uncertainty on health benefits, pensions, taxes, employment and education.

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