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German minister sees hope of 'soft' Brexit, with conditions


European Union negotiator Michel Barnier said the negotiations which should lead to a breakup by March 2019 "must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit - first for citizens, but also for the beneficiaries of the European Union policies and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland". And since the election results last week that left Prime Minister Theresa May without a parliamentary majority, that chaos and confusion have intensified.

In a statement the European Commission said: "The opening of negotiations at political level next week will focus on issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks".

The most senior officials on either side will lead work on efforts to resolve the problem of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a situation Mr Barnier acknowledged was "politically sensitive" at a time when the Tory government was seeking the support of the Democratic Unionist Party to prop up Mrs May's minority government.

Mrs May has promised MPs a "take it or leave it" vote on whether to accept the deal or take Britain out of the European Union without agreement and fall back on World Trade Organisation rules.

Davis was heartened by the spirit of the talks, during which the negotiators, both interested in mountaineering, exchanged a walking stick and a hiking book.

Another scoundrel in the eyes of Eurosceptics, the European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator's role will grow as the talks near their end because MEPs will have a veto over any final deal.

"It's not when it starts it's how it finishes that matters", he said.

"We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

"They should be agreed alongside each other, this is completely consistent with the Council's guidelines which state nothing is agreed until everything is agreed".

Mr Barnier's insistence on sticking to the EU's priorities for the negotiations comes after Mr Davis appeared to soften his stance on the schedule for the talks.

Hammond said Britain's position had been set out in a speech by May in January and a letter she sent to European Union leaders in March when she triggered the Brexit process.

"So it's the same as it was before".

At a joint news conference with visiting British Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris on Tuesday, France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, said "the door remains open" for the United Kingdom to change its mind about Brexit.

"It's not about punishment, it is not about revenge".

Dr. Anna Bradshaw, a lawyer and member of the Law Society's EU Committee, gave evidence to Parliament in March about how Brexit might impact on not just the EU arrest warrant, but also cooperation between British and other law enforcement agencies.

Earlier, Mr Hammond told the BBC's Marr programme: We're leaving the EU and because we are leaving the EU, we will be leaving the single market and by the way, we will be leaving the customs union.

"And the consequences are substantial".

Davis, taking up the historical theme, quoted British wartime leader Winston Churchill. "The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty".

"There is a long way to go, but we are off to a promising start".

The arch-federalist former Belgian PM, who this year published a book calling on EU states to forge "a more ideal Union", warned last week Britain could lose its rebate and opt-outs if it changes its mind and decides to stay.

"Now, we have a shared responsibility to deliver quick and substantive progress".

Divorce talks are set to begin next week as the anniversary of the Brexit vote nears.

The working language of the negotiations will be English and French, with interpretations provided by the European Commission.

Officials on both sides play down expectations for what can be achieved in one day.

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