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Britain, EU to start historic Brexit talks

Britain, EU to start historic Brexit talks

The public mood has also been shaken by a wave of terror attacks in recent weeks.

Mr Davis travel to Brussels to begin the talks with the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier which will focus on the status of expats, the UK's "divorce bill" and the Northern Ireland border.

Talks will begin at 0900 GMT (5pm Malaysia) with a joint press conference by former French foreign minister and European commissioner Barnier and Davis at around 1630 GMT.

Merkel said Monday: "I think it is premature to speculate on the first day of the negotiations how they will end".

The negotiations have been called the most complex in Britain's history as it unravels 44 years of membership and its threat to walk out with no deal in place has anxious European capitals.

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

But she now faces growing opposition at home to this, and her threats to walk away without a deal, in the wake of this month's general election in which she lost her centre-right Conservative party's parliamentary majority.

Davis said she will tell them about plans to guarantee rights for some 3 million European Union citizens in Britain under a proposal to be made next week. The EU requires nations with access to its free trading bloc to accept the free movement of people.

The UK is set to leave the European Union by the end of March 2019.

Failure to strike a deal before Britain automatically leaves the bloc on March 29, 2019, risks inflicting sweeping tariffs and uncertainty on both economies.

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"If we're going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not via a cliff edge", he said.

The UK may already have made one concession.

The EU has said that before it will start discussing a future trade deal with the United Kingdom, it wants to resolve the biggest uncertainties arising from Brexit, including the future rights of around 3 million EU citizens in the United Kingdom and the arrangements for avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Only when "sufficient progress" is made on these matters is Barnier willing to turn to the "bold and ambitious" trade deal that May wants, a pivot most doubt is unlikely to happen much before October.

These include the thorny issues of Britain's estimated 100-billion-euro ($112 billion) exit bill, the rights of European Union citizens living in Britain, and the fate of the border in Northern Ireland. Agreeing to pay a "Brexit bill" may be more inflammatory. The UK has ruled out paying such a sum, suggesting it could seek a chunk of the EU's assets as part of a "fair settlement", although it might have to pay something to ease a trade accord.

In carefully choreographed talks that even saw the two men exchange mountaineering gifts, they agreed to discuss divorce issues before negotiations on a future trade deal can start.

"The question is not whether we are leaving the customs union, the question is what do we put in its place in order to deliver the objectives which the prime minister set out", he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show.

Davis, a prominent "Leave" campaigner in the referendum, said he was approaching the talks in a "constructive way", knowing they will be "difficult at points".

For that reason, Brussels wants as a priority to guarantee rights for 3 million European Union citizens in Britain and be paid tens of billions of euros it says London will owe on its departure.