UK official looking for 'positive' Brexit talks

Those were, he said, the rights of expatriate citizens and problems of a new EU-UK border, notably cutting across Ireland.

Talks will begin at 0900 GMT with a joint press conference by former French foreign minister and European commissioner Barnier and Davis at around 1630 GMT.

The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association, known by its German initials VDMA, says that that goal of the two-year negotiating process is "damage limitation" because Brexit won't benefit either side.

"My very first words are to express my deep sympathies to the British people as you face tragic events, just as I want to express our solidarity to the Portuguese people", Barnier said, before turning to welcome his British counterpart.

The vote came as a profound shock to Brussels against a backdrop of rising anti-EU sentiment, with many - including now US President Donald Trump - predicting the bloc's eventual break-up.

Threats by Britain to walk away without a deal have also anxious European capitals.

Britain already appears to have capitulated to the EU's insistence that talks first focus on three key divorce issues, before moving onto the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.

"There is more that unites us than divides us", he said, adding that Britain was looking for a "positive and constructive tone" in the talks.

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Even though May triggered the two-year process on March 29, negotiators will have to get a full agreement much faster than March 2019.

Some of her ministers want to refashion her strategy toward protecting trade with Britain's biggest market rather than continue to aim for her original goal of winning control of immigration and law-making.

Those issues are Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros ($112 billion), the rights of three million European Union nationals living in Britain and one million Britons on the continent, and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. "Our Government should seize the initiative and tell the European Union how Britain is going to leave, not ask it how it might be done". "In a second step, we will scope our future partnership".

"Similarly we'll be leaving the Customs Union. that's the only way we can develop our free trade arrangements with the rest of the world", he added.

With discontent in europhile Scotland and troubled Northern Ireland, which faces a new European Union border across the divided island, Brexit poses new threats to the integrity of the United Kingdom.

"This is a technically hard issue, but it is one which I am certain is solvable although it will probably take us to the end of the process when we will have decided what our customs and free trade arrangements are".

Britain has not agreed to make any financial settlement to the European Union to cover outstanding obligations when it leaves, a senior EU official said after the first day of negotiations between London and the EU.

In Brussels, Davis and Barnier meet with the United Kingdom keen to win back sovereignty without hurting its economy, while the EU's aim is to maintain regional stability and stop inadvertently rewarding Britain's decision to leave for fear of encouraging others to break away.

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