The government of UK Prime Minister Theresa May is about to begin negotiations with the European Union (EU) on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc, as London’s approach remains uncertain following the recent general election.
Uk Brexit Secretary David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier were set to officially kick off the talks on terms of the divorce in Brussels later on Monday.
“Today marks the start of negotiations that will shape the future of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and the lives of our citizens,” Davis is expected to say.
“And while there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear – a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU. A deal like no other in history,” he would say of the outcome of the talks.
While the UK has projected a two-year period for the process after invoking the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty in March, Barnier has warned that London should agree to a deal before October 2018.
The talks would begin four days before the anniversary of last year’s EU referendum, where 52 percent of British voters opted to end the UK’s decades-long membership to curb immigration and get rid of the bloc’s financial regulations.
According to British media, the negotiations would focus on exit terms before deciding the future relations.
EU diplomats hope that the first day of the talks, coupled with May’s meetings with EU leaders during a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday, would clear the air after testy exchanges between both sides on crucial issues such as maintaining citizens’ rights and a financial settlement that the UK has to pay.
Some 3.5 million EU nationals live in the UK compared to 1.2 million Britons spread around the continent.
Davis said late last month that EU’s demands to protect its citizens’ rights in the UK were “ridiculously high.”
The UK has also dismissed an ultimatum by the EU to pay a “divorce bill” of around £60 billion before sitting at the negotiating table.
May’s challenges at home
May insisted to proceed with the negotiations schedule despite facing increasing calls to step down following a dismal performance in the June 8 election, which cost her party its narrow majority in Parliament.
The embattled PM, who called for the snap vote in mid-April to get “a stronger hand” in Brexit talks, is now trying to form a minority government with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The challenge has cast doubt on the outcome of the EU talks which will be voted on by the parliament.
May has made it clear that if the two sides miss the deadline without achieving a deal she would take the country out of the EU regardless, raising the prospects of a so-called “hard Brexit.”
in the run-up to the EU vote, May was a fierce anti-Brexit campaigner while Davis supported the cause.
The premier’s Brexit headaches also include Scotalnd, which has demanded a key role in the talks as it voted against leaving the block.