EU to focus on divorce bill as Brexit talks open
The European Commission is insisting negotiations will concentrate on "separation issues" before a future trade deal is discussed.
The start of Brexit negotiations next week will focus on EU citizens' rights, the UK's divorce bill and Northern Ireland's border.
The Commission, which is leading Brexit negotiations on behalf of the EU, insisted the process would start in line with its "sequenced approach" to negotiating the UK's departure.
Brussels has previously warned the UK Government it will only enter talks on a potential future trade deal with Britain once "significant progress" is made on divorce matters.
This includes a possible demand for an exit payment worth up to €100bn (£88bn).
Brexit Secretary David Davis will meet with the European Commission's chief negotiator Michel Barnier at 11am local time in Brussels on Monday to begin more than seven hours of official talks.
The Commission said on Friday: "The opening of negotiations at political level next week will focus on issues related to citizens' rights, the financial settlement, the Northern Irish border and other separation issues, as part of the sequenced approach to the talks.
"Both sides will also discuss the structure of the negotiations and the issues that need to be addressed over the coming months."
But the Government signalled it will continue to push back against the Commission's stance by declaring the UK's withdrawal and future relationship with the EU are "intimately linked".
The Department for Exiting the EU (DExEU) said it had been "crystal clear" about its approach to Brexit talks.
It noted how Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty states divorce talks should take account of a departing member state's future relationship with the bloc.
A DExEU spokesman said: "As we set out in the Article 50 letter, our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other."
He added: "As the EU has itself said, 'nothing is agreed, until everything is agreed'.
The Government agreed with the need to focus on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK and British nationals living on the continent.
The spokesman said: "We want to end the anxiety facing four million citizens."
The first day of formal Brexit negotiations follows "talks about talks" between Commission officials and British civil servants this week.
June 16, 2017
Sources:` Sky News
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