The first round of formal negotiations on Britain’s withdrawal from the EU will begin on June 19, it has been confirmed. Following discussions in Brussels on Thursday, the offices of British Brexit Secretary David Davis and the European Commission’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier released a joint statement to confirm the date.
The announcement followed speculation that talks may have to be delayed because of the inconclusive outcome of last week’s General Election, which has already forced the State Opening of Parliament to be put back from June 19 to 21. But in a statement, officials said: “David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday, June 19.”
Mr Davis is expected to meet Mr Barnier at the Commission’s headquarters in Belgian capital Brussels on Monday but it is not known how long the initial round of talks will last.Mr Barnier is due to report back to leaders of the 27 other EU states on Thursday to review progress ahead of a two-day summit of the European Council attended by Theresa May which starts later that day.
On Monday, the European Commission insisted it was “fully prepared and ready for the negotiations to start” the process. The senior official at the Department for Exiting the European Union, Olly Robbins, has been in Brussels this week for preliminary talks. Brussels has insisted talks on the so-called divorce, taking in issues including the fee the UK will have to pay to sever its ties, must make sufficient progress before any discussion on a future trade agreement could begin.
The UK Government wants the talks to take place in parallel during the Brexit process but both sides have made finding a solution to the issue of citizens’ rights a priority. In a hint at a softer approach, Mr Davis said on Monday “we will start down this process” by focusing on the divorce proceedings from the EU before moving on to trade. Mrs May’s weakened position in the House of Commons as a result of losing her majority has fuelled speculation the Tories would be forced to soften their stance on Brexit.
The British Prime Minister has insisted the UK will leave the single market, replace customs union membership with a new deal and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Critics of her approach have urged her to give ground in order to safeguard jobs and the economy.