The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator has warned against "illusions" over negotiations with the UK, saying that the separation will not be "quick and painless"
Speaking in Brussels, Michel Barnier laid out the EU's priorities for Brexit talks, adding the discussions could focus on a future relationship with the UK as soon as October.
Barnier said that a first round of talks should focus on the rights of European and British citizens, reaching a financial settlement and agreements on borders, before stating it was his "ambition" to begin talks on a potential trade deal in the autumn.
He also declined to comment on specific numbers for a so-called divorce bill, insisting instead that the sum "will develop", adding that failure to reach agreement could have "explosive" consequences for EU programmes. Brexit secretary David Davis has already rejected a potential €100bn figure.
Barnier also insisted that reaching a deal would not represent a "punishment" but a "settling of accounts".
"Some have created the illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on our lives, or that the negotiations can be concluded quickly and painlessly. This is not the case," Barnier said.
"We need sound solutions and we need legal precision and this will take time."
And he added that time is of the essence, with the UK granted only a two-year window to complete talks from 29 March, when Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50.
"It's high time we started negotating. We shall start negotiating as soon as the UK is ready to come to the table. The clock is ticking," he said.