Germany: no punishment for UK, but EU exit good for no one

The Latest EU hints that Brexit talks may not start on time

June 19 Brexit Secretary David Davis and European Commission chief negotiator Michel Barnier open negotiations in Brussels.

Almost a year to the day since Britons voted on the 23 June referendum to leave its main trading partner, and nearly three months since Prime Minister Theresa May set off a two-year countdown to Brexit in March 2019, May's entire approach has been called into question after a disastrous election performance on 8 June. "First for citizens, also for beneficiaries of European Union policies and the impact on borders", Barnier said as the talks began. "My clear view, and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is that we should prioritize protecting jobs, protecting economic growth, protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward", Hammond said.

Davis, noting shared security threats for governments across Europe hours after a van rammed worshippers at a London mosque, said: "There is more that unites us than divides us".

"We launch negotiations in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves and our European allies and friends in the future". A spokesperson for the UK's Brexit department said it expected both phases of the negotiations "to be agreed alongside each other", but did not deny that the talks would focus initially on divorce issues, including agreeing the UK's financial obligations.

European Union leaders have given chief Brussels negotiator Michel Barnier no authority to so much as talk about future trade with Britain until he clinches outline deals on Brussels' priority issues, including London's exit bill.

He wouldn't be drawn on whether he supported Britain's continued membership in the single market and said Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government will negotiate in a "pragmatic" manner, striving for a solution that works for both sides. Only when there is "sufficient progress" does the European Union want to look at creating a new relationship with Britain on things like trade and migration.

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According to reports from Press Association (PA), a spokesperson for the UK's Department for Exiting the European Union (EU) said the first aim was to move ahead on securing the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom and UK citizens living in the EU and "end the anxiety facing four million citizens".

Merkel said she wanted the talks to be conducted "in a good spirit" and that Britain's position would become evident in the coming months.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain a year ago voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first country ever to do so - in a shock referendum result.

The fact Mr Davis agreed to an agenda on Monday that will see him and British officials spend some seven hours in the European Union executive's headquarters discussing who will talk to whom when and about what has come as a relief to some European Union negotiators.

No deal would be "very, very bad" for Britain, Hammond said, but worse would be a deal "deliberately structured to punish us, to suck the lifeblood out of our economy".

"The most important thing for us is to look to the horizon, raise our eyes to the horizon". "Of course one can think about a common finance minister if the conditions are in place and if we do not mutualise in the wrong areas", she said.