Germany: no punishment for UK, but EU exit good for no one

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He even took to dubbing himself "Mr. Brexit".

The decision of last year's referendum paved the way for the formal Brexit negotiations which today will start in Brussels.

Instead there is still disarray at Westminster as talks between the Conservative Party and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party continue in order to form a minority Government.

The hung Parliament has led to the belief that the Brexit discussions have shifted from a hard to a soft stance, explained here.

Davis said the talks would be carried out in "a positive and constructive tone", with Britain looking to forge a "strong and special partnership for the future".

Talks will begin at 0900 GMT with a joint press conference by former French foreign minister and European commissioner Barnier and Davis at around 1630 GMT.

Philip Hammond yesterday warned failing to secure a Brexit deal would be "very, very bad" for Britain ahead of the start of exit talks in Brussels.

The Chancellor insisted there must be transitional arrangements to avoid a "cliff edge", and he indicated temporary measures could be in place for a couple of years before a final deal is sealed.

"As David Davis boards the plane to negotiate Brexit on behalf of the Government, it is unclear what the Government's position actually is".

May has said she is open to some kind of association agreement with the customs union and wants to avoid any so-called "cliff-edge" into uncertain trading conditions, but she has also said Britain must be able to control immigration - something it can not do while a member of the EU. Agreeing to pay a "Brexit bill" may be more inflammatory.

The subject of the border between the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is like to be high on the agenda as it forms a vital part of the Good Friday Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.

While Barnier insists on the "sequencing" of talks, so that trade negotiations can not start until probably January, finding a way to avoid a "hard" customs border for troubled Northern Ireland may well involve some earlier discussion of the matter.

"Sitting down for a first formal negotiation round is something in and of itself", an European Union source told AFP.

What concerned companies most was May's threat to walk away from the talks if they did not go her way - a pledge made to reassure eurosceptics in her party that she would not crumble.

A beaming Brexit Secretary David Davis, a veteran campaigner against European Union membership, told a sombre Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, that his team aimed to maintain a "positive and constructive tone" during "challenging" talks ahead in the hope of reaching a deal that was in the interests of both sides.

June 22 - Mr Barnier reports back to the leaders of the EU27, who are expected to endorse a process for relocation of European Union agencies now based in the UK.

Barnier said there will be one week of negotiations every month and the two sides will use the time in between to work out proposals.

But Union leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, are also determined not to make concessions to Britain that might encourage others to quit.

Mr Barnier made clear that Brussels intends to stick to its timetable of dealing with the terms of Britain's withdrawal before moving on to discussing future trade relations. The Prime Minister will attend a two-day European Council summit in Brussels.

Monday's talks however are likely to focus on the practical details of timings for the coming months, with the big, divisive issues left aside for now, officials said.

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