Brexit talks begin in earnest with citizens' rights in focus

Roughly 4-in-10 UK firms report Brexit hit to investment: CBI

Brexit minister David Davis met Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, to try to push through a deal ahead of Britain's withdrawal from the bloc, scheduled for March 2019.

"We'll now delve into the heart of the matter", Barnier told reporters, declining questions until the end of this round of talks on Thursday.

Brexit negotiations resumed in Brussels on Monday against a backdrop of political infighting among British ministers over the terms of Britain's departure from the European Union.

Barnier and Davis last month agreed on a potential timetable for negotiations towards a future trade relationship, which Britain would like to start as soon as possible.

Barnier, a former French cabinet minister who was flanked at the table by his German deputy Sabine Weyand and French strategy chief Stephanie Riso, has urged the British to give more detail on what they want, more than a year after they voted for Brexit.

Mr Hammond blamed colleagues opposed to the agenda he had been setting out for extended transitional arrangements when Britain leaves the European Union in 2019 so business was not faced with a "cliff edge" break.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson had earlier said the European Union could "go whistle" for its money in reaction to financial demands.

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But the plan took a considerable blow when the Tories lost their majority in the House of Commons at the general election.

"I think on many fronts it would be helpful if my colleagues - all of us - focused on the job in hand".

Earlier estimates put the bill between €60 billion and €100 billion.

Progress on citizens' rights is one of the three main issues that have to be resolved before the two sides can start talking about a wide-ranging free trade deal, the others being the bill Britain has to pay to meet existing commitments and the border issue in Ireland. "But a Labour Brexit would look very different to the race-to-the-bottom tax haven backed by this Conservative government", he said.

For now, the EU says May's offer to guarantee the rights of 3 million Europeans in Britain falls short.

The depth of division among Prime Minister Theresa May's ministers was highlighted over the weekend as Hammond was accused of using the Treasury to "frustrate" the Brexit process.

"David Davis has vowed to "get down to business" and hit the "substance" of Brexit talks as a new round kicks off today", wrote the Daily Mirror.

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