Brexit Talks Get Down to Detail as May Seeks to Stop Feuds

  • Talks to focus on exit bill, residency righs, nuclear matter
  • Davis is back in London, will return to Brussels on Thursday

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Brexit negotiators got down to the technical details of the divorce on Tuesday, tackling issues from nuclear cooperation to residency rights, as Prime Minister Theresa May seeks to silence public sparring among her ministers.

U.K. Brexit Secretary David Davis and European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier are leaving their teams to hash out the details of the settlement -- the British team has 98 officials while the EU squad has 45 -- with Davis back in London after holding talks of around an hour, in Brussels, on Monday.

“We do not consider this as a problem and we are not concerned about it; chief negotiators do not have to be present all the time,” European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels, responding to a question about Davis’s swift departure. On the U.K.’s large team, he said: “We don’t feel that we have been invaded.”

Davis will attend a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday where May will tell ministers to stop leaking negative stories about each other to the press in a bid to reassert her authority, which has been damaged by last month’s election result.

Backstabbing among ministers, much of it targeting Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, has overshadowed the second round of talks, scheduled to continue until Thursday, as May’s potential successors take advantage of her weakened position. Davis is seen as a possible replacement for May, while Hammond has come under attack for his efforts to maintain close ties with Europe after Brexit -- in line with what U.K. businesses want.

With businesses warning that they will relocate if they don’t have more clarity by the end of the year, Davis is now agreeing with Barnier that there’s a rush to reach swift agreement on the exit terms so that talks can move on to trade.

The EU has made much of the early running by forging a common position on the issues up for debate, as well as forcing the U.K. into its schedule of discussing divorce issues such as citizens’ rights and financial obligations before moving on to a future trade arrangement.

Those areas were discussed in detail on Monday and are scheduled to continue on Tuesday alongside the thorny topic of the Irish border, nuclear energy cooperation, what to do about U.K. and EU goods placed on the market before Brexit day, and administrative procedures.

“Both sides have today got round the table and started the serious business of working through our positions in a number of areas,” a spokesman for Davis’s Department for Exiting the EU said in an emailed statement at the conclusion of Monday’s discussions. “We recognize that this will be a complicated and technical process and we look forward to coming back tomorrow to make progress on the work we have begun today.”

— With assistance by Nikos Chrysoloras, Viktoria Dendrinou, and Alex Morales

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