Chief U.K. negotiator David Davis is meeting his European Union counterpart, former French foreign minister Michel Barnier, to grapple with a complex set of questions about the future of trade and migration, how much the country must pay to settle its bill with the bloc, and the rights of millions of citizens who have settled in Britain or Europe. A snap election early this month, in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her majority, only added to the problems. "A fair deal is possible and far better than no deal", the French former European Union commissioner said.
"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.
"The pessimist see difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty. I am certainly a determined optimist". He said that the Conservatives" policies were "proposals that we will now have to look at again in the light of the general election result'. May says Britain will leave the EU's single market in goods and services and its tariff-free customs union, but nonetheless, somehow, wants "frictionless" free trade. Initial discussions only on citizens" rightsThe European Commission has insisted that initial discussions would only centre on citizens' rights, the UK's "divorce bill' and the Northern Ireland border question.
It will test the ingenuity of thousands of public servants racing against the clock to untangle 44 years of European Union membership before Britain is out, 649 days from now, on March 30, 2019.
"We must lift the uncertainty caused by Brexit", said Barnier.
The EU has said that the exact sum to be paid by the United Kingdom may not need to be agreed at the outset, but that there should be quick agreement on principles of what is to be included in it. Britain has all but acknowledged that the talks will be phased: At a press conference in Paris with French president Emmanuel Macron last week, prime minister Theresa May referred to the "good process" set out by EU. We are going to talk about new borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland. "And we want to try to solve the hard things as well as possible".
The bloc has expanded steadily since first formed as the European Economic Community in 1957 by France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Barnier, a veteran French politician, has been vested by the European Union's 27 remaining countries to enforce their no-compromise red-lines that any deal for Britain must not be more favorable than the one it now has as a full member. Never before has a country sought to leave.
Davis said he was looking for a "positive and constructive tone" to deal with the myriad issues dividing both sides.
Davis was heartened by the spirit of the talks, during which the negotiators, both interested in mountaineering, exchanged a walking stick and a hiking book. He has said a divorce deal should be ready by October next year to give time for parliamentary approval.
With a further million British expatriates in the EU, May too wants a deal on citizens' rights, though the two sides are some way apart.
"The path is open for the British to change their minds and become part of the European Union again", Verhofstadt told Welt.