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Brexit talks may not start on June 19, David Davis suggests

He also indicated “we will start down this process” by focusing on the divorce proceedings from the EU.

David Davis has signalled that discussions on the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU) may not start on June 19 as anticipated.

The Brexit Secretary said the talks would take place that week, but not necessarily on the Monday due to the clash with the Queen’s Speech at Westminster.

Mr Davis also indicated “we will start down this process” by focusing on the divorce proceedings from the EU before moving on to trade.

Brussels has insisted that talks on the so-called divorce, taking in issues including the fee the UK will have to pay to sever its ties, must make sufficient progress before any discussion on a future trade agreement could begin.

The UK Government wants the talks to take place in parallel during the Brexit process.

Theresa May had repeatedly said during the election campaign that the Brexit talks would start 11 days after the June 8 vote, using it as a warning that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour were not ready for the negotiations.

Mr Davis indicated there could be a slight delay before he enters the negotiating chamber.

He told Sky News: “It’s in the week of next week, basically, the first discussions. My permanent secretary is actually in Brussels today talking to them about the details.

“It may not be on the Monday because we also have got the Queen’s Speech that week and I will have to speak in that, and so on. ”

Mr Davis added: “In the first round we are going to have pretty long meetings at roughly one week a month – which is much, much faster than any previous trade deal they have done.

“The first bit of it – Brussels want to do the so-called divorce proceedings first – the first bit of that includes European citizens in the UK.

“It includes money, they want to talk about that, we think it should come later, and Northern Ireland. The European citizens in the UK, we want to get on with as fast as possible because we don’t want people to be in a state of anxiety.”

Dismissing the prospect of a unilateral decision to guarantee the rights of EU citizens in the UK, he stressed he had “got to worry about the million or so Brits abroad”.

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Asked if he was now accepting Brussels’ timetable, as set out by chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Davis said: “What we have said is we will start down this process but I will have some discussions with Mr Barnier about how we progress to the wider thing of the trade area.

“The most important thing in the aggregate is the trade area.”

Mrs May’s weakened position in the House of Commons as a result of losing her majority has fuelled speculation the Tories would be forced to soften their stance on Brexit.

Mr Davis suggested he was open to co-operation with Labour on the issue but rejected the idea of the UK remaining in the single market.

The European Commission said it is prepared for the negotiations to start as soon as the UK is ready but refused to give a date.

Spokesman Alexander Winterstein said: “We are fully prepared and ready for negotiations to start.”

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