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EU negotiator says sides agree Brexit must be orderly

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Updated: 10:50 GMT, Jun 20, 2017 | Published: 10:49 GMT, Jun 20, 2017 |
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EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday (June 19) said after the first day of divorce talks with Britain’s Brexit Secretary David Davis that London must pull out of the bloc in an orderly way.

Speaking at a joint news conference in Brussels after the first day of talks, Barnier said the clock was ticking and that Davis and him agreed on a timetable and a list of issues to tackle in priority for what is scheduled to be a two-year negotiation before Britain leaves the EU.

Barnier also said that it was important to tackle uncertainties caused by Brexit.

Those were, he said, the rights of expatriate citizens and problems of a new EU-UK border, notably cutting across Ireland. He did not mention a third EU priority – that Britain settle a bill of tens of billions of euros before it leaves in 21 months.

Both Barnier and Davis said they had spent a great deal of time discussing the question of Northern Ireland where all parties seek to uphold the free border.

While Barnier insists on the “sequencing” of talks, so that trade negotiations cannot 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.

Davis, answering a question, said Britain’s negotiating position had not changed as a result of his Conservative Party’s poor showing in recent elections. Britain, he said, would seek to leave both the single market and the customs union and forge a separate trading agreement.

Davis, a veteran campaigner against EU membership, said he sought quick and substantive progress and added he was “encouraged by the constructive approach that both sides have taken.”

Barnier has said a divorce deal should be ready by October next year to give time for parliamentary approval. With or without a deal, Britain will be out of the EU on March 30, 2019. EU leaders want May to lay off threats that she would walk out and leave a chaotic legal limbo for all Europeans.