British and European negotiators have reconvened in the Belgian capital Brussels to kick off the second round of marathon talks on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
UK Brexit minister David Davis joined Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier at the European Commission headquarters on Monday, nearly a month after a chaotic first round that saw London make big concessions on how the talks should be held.
"We made a good start last month but we are now getting into the substance of the matter," Davis told reporters.
"For us, it's incredibly important we now make good progress," he added. “Now it's time to get down to work and to make this a successful negotiation."
Barnier also hoped for “good progress” but declined further comment. He promised to provide more details on Thursday, after tackling a range of issues in the four-day talks.
Last month, Davis agreed to settle the divorce terms before getting to the details about future relations with the EU.
This is a stark retreat from one of the UK’s core demands, calling for parallel talks on both aspects of the process.
The EU has demanded an early agreement on three issues: the rights of EU nationals living in the UK; the UK’s “exit” payment to the EU; and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Barnier has made it clear that the EU would only proceed to future ties when "sufficient progress has been made" in these areas.
‘Corbyn could join EU talks’
UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s weakened political position following the June 8 general election has allowed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to seek a more active role in Brexit talks.
The chief opposition leader says his party is able to use its ties with other parties around the EU to get a better divorce deal in a friendlier and more respectful manner than May, who has openly threatened to leave the bloc without a deal.
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"In contrast to the Conservatives' megaphone diplomacy, we will conduct relations with our European neighbors respectfully and in the spirit of friendship,” he said.
The more level-headed approach by Corbyn has prompted the European Parliament's chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt to ask for him and other party leaders to be signed up on May’s team.
Criticizing May’s "somewhat chaotic" way of handling the pending divorce, the outspoken Belgian told the Independent that “the negotiations should involve more people with more diverse opinions.”
"This is much bigger than one political party’s internal divisions or short term electoral positioning,” he added.
Corbyn and his top party allies discussed Brexit with Barnier and other EU officials in Brussels last week.