Brexit ‘divorce bill’ from EU to be settled ahead of trade talks

David Davis is negotiating our exit from the EU.

David Davis is negotiating our exit from the EU.

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THE BREXIT talks began with a major concession to the European Union over the timetable for the discussions.

The so-called ‘divorce bill’ Brussels wants Britain to pay as it leaves will be substantially settled before talks move on to future trading relations.

Brexit Secretary David Davis had been pressing for the terms of the UK’s withdrawal and trading terms to be considered simultaneously.

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The rights of EU and UK citizens and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland will also form part of the first stage of the talks.

Mr Davis insisted the agreement of the timetable did not show the UK was in a weak negotiating position. He said the importance of the talks was not how they start but how they finish.

“The UK has been crystal clear about our approach to the negotiation.

“The withdrawal process cannot be concluded without the future relationship being taken into account.

“They should be agreed alongside each other.”

Mr Davis said the two sides hoped they could reach an agreement of citizens’ rights “reasonably fast”.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said discussions on trade would follow when “sufficient” progress has been made on the first phase of the talks.

He said: “It is our priority, it is citizens first.

“We want to find a way of ensuring that their rights are protected, the rights acquired up until the date of withdrawal.

“We want to protect those rights over time, throughout their lifetime, for them and for their families.”

The pair were speaking last night after the end of the first day of talks in Brussels.

Mr Barnier insisted the Brexit process was not about seeking concessions.

“It is not about punishment, it is not about revenge.

“We are implementing the decision taken by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and unravel 43 years of patiently built relations,” he said.

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