David Davis will try to strike ‘a deal like no other in history’ as he starts Brexit talks in Brussels today
The Brexit Secretary will officially launch divorce talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier a year to the week that Britain voted to Leave.
Mr Davis will declare his desire for Britain and the EU to emerge strong and prosperous.
The two sides have to finalise a deal before the UK leaves the union on March 29, 2019.
‘Today marks the start of negotiations that will shape the future of the European Union and the United Kingdom, and the lives of our citizens,’ he said.
‘We want both sides to emerge strong and prosperous, capable of projecting our shared European values, leading in the world, and demonstrating our resolve to protect the security of our citizens.
‘I want to reiterate at the outset of these talks that the UK will remain a committed partner and ally of our friends across the Continent.
‘And while there is a long road ahead, our destination is clear – a deep and special partnership between the UK and the EU. A deal like no other in history. I look forward to beginning work on that new future today.’
Mr Davis will be accompanied by a nine-strong negotiating team that includes the most senior civil servants at the Department for Exiting the EU (DexEU), as well as officials from the Treasury and Home Office and Mark Sedwill, the national security adviser to the Prime Minister.
Mr Barnier yesterday tweeted that he was spending the weekend hiking in the French Alps ‘to draw strength and energy’ ahead of the start of the talks.
The Brexit Secretary will officially launch divorce talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier a year to the week that Britain voted to Leave. Mr Davis will declare his desire for Britain and the EU to emerge strong and prosperous
A Whitehall source said the DexEU team was ready. He added: ‘This place is absolutely humming. Everyone is up for this. This whole department has spent months working flat out to get in the position we are now to start negotiations – and it has just gone up a gear.
‘The atmosphere and the positivity, the whole place is upbeat. This notion that we’re in disarray is just not the truth. We’re looking forward very much to getting going on Monday. We have got a strong team. This idea that somehow we’re a shambolic outfit couldn’t be further from the truth.
‘You have got David Davis at the top of the department – a massively experienced parliamentarian, former businessman, knows his way around a deal, is a strong and canny operator. You have got Brexit permanent secretary Olly Robbins, a phenomenally experienced civil servant. You have got Sir Tim Barrow, one of the country’s foremost diplomats and negotiators.
‘And that is just the top three, and beneath them you have got a tier that is the cream of Whitehall that is working on this.
‘The department is up and running and is looking forward to getting going. We’re ready to go and looking forward to it.’
Talks will focus on the status of expats, the UK’s exit settlement and the Northern Ireland border. But officials insisted the UK would continue to push for an agreement on trade relations to be dealt with alongside a deal on the withdrawal process.
Labour yesterday remained in a muddle on the country’s exit from the EU. The party’s Brexit spokesman, Sir Keir Starmer, said Britain should ‘leave options on the table’, including remaining a part of the customs union.
European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who Mr Davis will start negotiations with today, speaks during a media conference at EU headquarter
During an interview on the Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir said Britain could not stay in the single market in ‘an unreformed, unchanged way’ – but sidestepped questions on the details, saying it is more important to focus on the outcome.
He said: ‘You can only be a full member of the single market if you are an EU member and therefore it is obvious that we are looking for something else.
‘The question is do we leave options on the table, and I’ve said repeatedly – yes, let’s leave options on the table.’
Asked whether Britain could stay inside the customs union, Sir Keir said: ‘Yes.’
He added: ‘The Prime Minister has got us into a complete mess. She’s got no mandate here and she’s got no authority abroad and the negotiation starts tomorrow.
‘Things have to change. Her approach so far has alienated our allies in Europe, it’s weakened our position with the EU and it’s actually got us into the worst possible starting position.’