Britain eyes Brexit deal 'like no other in history'

BRUSSELS (AP) — The Brexit talks to lead Britain out of the European Union kicked off on Monday and the chief negotiators are already on a first-name basis.

Brexit Secretary David Davis and the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier met for lunch, marking the start of the talks by exchanging gifts related to their shared love of mountaineering. The negotiations have been called the most complex in Britain's history as it unravels 44 years of membership and its threat to walk out with no deal in place has anxious European capitals.

Barnier said they wanted to agree on the "main principles of the key challenges of the UK's withdrawal as soon as possible", including Britain's exit bill, the rights of European Union citizens in Britain and the future of Northern Ireland. "In many ways it felt like the British people finally said "enough" and had a revolution - except to me a least, it was very much the wrong one".

With Ms May still hammering out the details of a post-election deal to stay in power with the support of a small Northern Irish party, there are fears of a disorderly exit that would weaken the West, imperil Britain's $2.5 trillion economy and undermine London's position as the only financial centre to rival NY.

TRT World's Simon McGregor-Wood reports.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson said: "We are pushing back Daesh militarily, but the threat we face is evolving rather than disappearing as they lose ground in Iraq and Syria".

Five major United Kingdom business bodies have come together to call for continued access to the European single market until a final Brexit deal is made with the EU.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britons voted last June to become the first nation ever to leave the 28-nation EU.

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The situation is very different from 12 months ago when the Brexiteers were riding high, with Prime Minister Theresa May's entire approach called into question after a disastrous election performance on June 8.

"While there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens".

Before the election, Ms May proposed a clean break from the European Union: leaving its single market, which enshrines free movement of people, goods, services and capital, and proposing limits on immigration and a bespoke customs deal with the EU.

Both English and French will be used as working languages in negotiations and working documents, and the two sides have agreed a set of principles on the openness of their talks. Britain insists that it must regain the right to control immigration and end free movement from other European Union countries into Britain.

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. Talks must be wrapped up by the end of 2018 to allow the European and British Parliaments to rubber-stamp them, making it questionable May can secure what she wants in the timeframe allowed.

Macron, a committed pro-EU leader and ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, easily won French legislative elections on Sunday, cementing his power base.

In the final agreement, the businesses want tariff-free goods trade between Britain and the European Union as well as "minimal customs formalities at the land, sea and air borders" between them.

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