Trade deals not on agenda for looming Brexit talks

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European Union officials see the start of Brexit talks on Monday as a sign Theresa May is accepting their format for negotiations but they expect no quick deals and are wary the prime minister may try to break with Brussels protocol.

The EU will open the historic divorce talks with the United Kingdom by discussing the size of the bill London will have to settle, the rights of EU and UK citizens and the bloc's new external border in Northern Ireland.

"Our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other", said the spokesman.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May had hoped to enter negotiations with a strong bargaining hand, but the recent snap general elections have left her without a majority in Parliament and mired in talks between her Conservative Party and the minor Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland in a bid to achieve a ruling pact.

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"I'm not going to give a blow by blow account of how we propose to take that discussion forward", he said. "But the withdrawal and future are intimately linked".

Barnier this week acknowledged "sensitivity" in London at European Union suggestions that Britain might owe it some 60 billion euros in 2019 and said sorting out the issue soon would help a trade deal: "I would like to very quickly play down this question, and find concrete, pragmatic and just solutions", he said on Monday. We want to end the anxiety facing four million citizens.

"That has always been our first aim and that is what we will do", the spokesman said.

Mr Barnier is due to report back to leaders of the 27 other EU states on Thursday to review progress ahead of a two-day summit of the European Council attended by Theresa May which starts later that day.

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May's finance minister, Philip Hammond, said on Friday that Britain should prioritize protecting jobs and economic growth.

Labour's Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer has written to David Davis urging him to "reset" the government's "belligerent and reckless" approach to leaving the EU.

European Union officials played down the importance of Britain's lack of a clear final plan, saying that talks on other issues can go ahead without deciding yet on a new relationship.

The chancellor of the exchequer was asked whether he favoured a softer version of Brexit - such as British membership of the EU single market or of a customs union.

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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.

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