Official Brexit negotiations got under way at the European Commission in Brussels on Monday.
Chief EU negotiator, Michel Barnier, met David Davis, the UK Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, two days before the Queen’s Speech in the House of Commons, at the heart of which was Brexit.
During a press conference after day one of the talks, Barnier said that his priorities were to “tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit, first for the citizens and beneficiaries of EU policies”, while Mr Davis spoke of “challenging times ahead” and the importance of constructing a “strong and special relationship” between the UK and EU. By the end of the first day, the EU’s chief negotiator said that “priorities and dates” had been agreed.
Further meetings were due to be held on Thursday evening and today, Friday, to discuss the relocation of UK-based European agencies, including the European Medicines Agency, which Barcelona has shown an interest in hosting, as well as the European Banking Authority, which also has its current HQ in London. Mario Draghi, the Italian president of the European Central Bank is also expected to attend Friday’s talks.
As talks got under way, Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, warned that Gibraltar would “not be the first nor the most important priority” in the Brexit talks and that it should be the focus of a “bilateral agreement between London and Madrid.”
Ahead of Monday’s meeting, collectives of British citizens in the EU, including Bremain in Spain and British in Europe, issued a statement urging David Davis to “represent the 1.2 million UK citizens living in the EU who have been in limbo for a year”. The statement went on to say that they “expect him to stick to Theresa May’s repeated pledge to make citizens’ rights her highest priority”.