David Davis has promised to “get down to work” on his arrival in Brussels for the second round of the UK’s Brexit talks, acknowledging that negotiations will include talks on the country’s exit bill.
Meeting with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier this morning, the Brexit secretary said negotiations were now “getting into the substance of the matter”. The first phase of talks will centre on citizens’ rights, the UK’s exit bill, and Northern Ireland, said Mr Davis.
“For us it’s incredibly important that we now make good progress”, said Mr Davis. “Now it’s time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation”.
This week’s talks are the first time the EU and UK will address in detail the issues arising from the Brexit divorce. The two sides are planning for four days of negotiations with Mr Davis returning to Brussels on Thursday to take stock of progress and make preparations for the next round of talks.
Speaking alongside Mr Davis, Mr Barnier said talks would now “delve into the art of the matter”. “We need to examine and compare our respective positions in order to make good progress”, said the Frenchman who is leading negotiations for the EU-27.
The two men are aiming to make sufficient progress by October to open parallel trade negotiations, but insiders on both sides are doubtful that timetable will be met.
Mr Barnier will hold a press conference at the close of talks; the UK side has yet to confirm whether Mr Davis will join him.
Far from worrying about a British counter-offensive in the first round, diplomats in Brussels have begun worrying more about the political upheaval in the UK and what interventions may be “helpful”.
“It’s a mess. Nobody would want to see them like this,” said one northern European diplomat handling Brexit.