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

Labour is seeking regular meetings with the most senior civil servant at the Department for Exiting the European Union, saying it needs to be ready to take over negotiations at any stage if Mrs May's government falls.

His comments are likely to be seen as a further indication he is pressing for the Government to take a "softer" line on Brexit than the immigration-driven approach previously set out by Theresa May.

Sir Keir said the loss of Mrs May's overall majority in the June 8 General Election meant Parliament could no longer be "marginalised" in the Brexit process and "appropriate steps" must be taken to prepare for a Labour administration to take over negotiations at any stage if Mrs May's Government falls.

On the European Union side, Britain's rethink on its exit is possible and would indeed be welcome. "The question is what do we put in its place in order to deliver the objectives which the Prime Minister set out in the Lancaster House speech of having no hard land border in Ireland and enabling British goods to flow freely backwards and forwards across the border with the European Union".

But a war is now raging within government over which direction ministers should take. He will be under pressure as the replacement of the highly-experienced Sir Ivan Rogers, who announced his shock resignation with accusations the Government was suffering from "muddled thinking" over Brexit.

"The big clash that we feared isn't there", said one senior official involved.

The Foreign Secretary may need to watch his mouth and avoid a repeat of his "insulting" claims that Italy should back a generous deal for the United Kingdom to avoid losing sales of its prosecco sparkling wine.

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

However, Europe says that an agreement on issues such as the rights of citizens, the divorce bill and border controls must come before considering any post-Brexit settlement.

And the source told the BBC that it was understood the talks would broadly follow the EU's preferred sequence, dealing with issues of citizens' rights and a framework for calculating outstanding financial liabilities before moving on, possibly later in the year, to deal with the UK's future relationship with the EU.

Sabine Weyand: Mr Barnier's deputy, a trilingual German-born trade specialist who studied English literature, political science and economics at university, and spent time as a student at Cambridge.

European Union officials feared ahead of the first talks that the PM's "impossible position" but her in "hell" ahead of the crucial negotiations.

"We want to see a Brexit that works for everybody, not just in Northern Ireland from my perspective but in the Republic of Ireland as well, so it is about a sensible Brexit", Foster told reporters. Do your best to avoid a "no deal" as result of "no negotiations".

"Both sides will also discuss the structure of the negotiations and the issues that need to be addressed over the coming months".

Jean-Claude Juncker: The European Commission president will not be directly involved in talks and his spokesman has said he is unlikely to spend more than half an hour a week on Brexit. But it will be a new door to a new Europe. The talks must be completed and endorsed by parliaments by the end of March 2019. That sentiment has ben faced down in France by Emmanuel Macron.

Brexit negotiations which could define the UK's political and economic future have begun, with David Davis calling for a "new deep and special partnership" between Britain and Brussels.


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