European Union officials seek sense of urgency as Brexit bargaining begins

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The British and EU Brexit negotiators met on Monday, pledging to "get down to work" in a first full round of talks on Britain's divorce terms from the European Union.

"It's time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation", veteran anti-EU campaigner David Davis said as he was welcomed by the bloc's chief negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time) before their teams began four days of talks.

Mr Davis, in contrast, struck a more idealistic and upbeat tone, saying it was "good to be back in Brussels" and talking up the "similarities" between the two sides.

Mr Barnier, who has made clear that he is not prepared to start talks on a trade deal until there has been sufficient progress on the financial settlement, retorted icily he could not hear any whistling, "just the clock ticking". The EU has demanded Britain to pay some 60 billion euros (70 billion US dollars) as exit fee.

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A weekend of media briefings from competing factions within the Conservatives did little to reassure companies, though most cabinet ministers appear now to accept that there needs to be a transition, or what May calls an "implementation phase". Earlier in March, British Prime Minister Theresa May had set a two-year timetable for leaving the EU.

Barnier last week held a series of meetings in Brussels with British opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and other United Kingdom figures at odds with May.

Britain's Brexit minister pledged to "get down to work" as he kicked off a first full round of negotiations, but a year after Britons voted narrowly to leave the European Union their government seemed at war with itself over the divorce terms.

For now, the EU says May's offer to guarantee the rights of 3 million Europeans in Britain falls short. He declined to identify the sources who had indicated which leaders he was referring to.

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The EU has demonstrated increasing confidence in recent weeks, accusing Britain of dithering over whether it wants a "hard" or "soft" Brexit more than a year after the shock referendum that propelled May to power. British industry of medicine and aviation have recently voiced their concerns.

The ruling Conservatives lost their parliamentary majority in the June 8 vote, greatly weakening May's authority, although she remains in office as the head of a minority government.

It is the second round of formal talks.

On Thursday, the British government introduced a draft law that would formally end Britain's European Union membership, as preparation for eventually divorcing the bloc and gaining back legislation power of parliaments. Other issues, such as the cost of Brexit, are also on the table. The prime minister may have to seek consensus from other parties in parliament and to offer concessions on relative policies.

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According to Anadolu Agency, The U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis said the talks would focus on citizens' rights, finance, "separation issues" and Northern Ireland, according to a government statement.


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