David Davis: Brexit talks will get "into the substance of the matter" this week

 
Catherine Neilan
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Davis and Barnier are resuming talks in Brussels today (Source: Getty)

The Brexit negotiators will be getting "into the substance of the matter" as the respective UK and EU teams return to Brussels today for the next formal round of talks.

Brexit secretary David Davis said this morning the two sides would be focusing on four key issues this week: citizens rights, finance, separation issues and Northern Ireland.

"For us it is incredibly important that we now make good progress, that we negotiate through this and identify the differences so that we can deal with them, and identify the similarities so we can reinforce them," Davis said.

"And now, it’s time to get down to work and make this a successful negotiation."

Here's how the agenda for the next few days looks.

But experts have warned that the UK has put itself in a weak starting point.

Tim Cullen, director of the Oxford Programme on Negotiation at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford said: “The toxic insults and one-liners from Whitehall towards Brussels have been very damaging.

Theresa May and ministers have made themselves hostage to fortune in at least two ways. Firstly, they have hyped unrealistic goals - promising lots of new bilateral trade deals in record time, when they will take years. Secondly, by publicly announcing red lines on issues like the European Court of Justice, they are making threats from which they must back down.

“Now they must assess the relative value of every issue to the UK and the EU to enable reciprocal trades - each must stay in play for as long as possible. The EU has gained the upper hand by insisting on finalising the divorce before discussing other issues. The UK must push back on this."

Cullen added that negotiators may reach stalemate and could ultimately decide to "ignore the sunk cost and agree to a deal for the UK to remain in the EU, which is much better than David Cameron offered the electorate and a better deal than Brexit itself would offer".

There are still a number of commentators who suggest Brexit still might not happen - and not just Vince Cable and Tony Blair.

Last week, EU negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters he and his team were eager to press ahead with detailed discussions - and would work over the weekend or on last Friday's Bastille Day to get the job done - although he insisted the best option was still for the UK to remain within the bloc.

The return to work follows a weekend in which chancellor Philip Hammond headed off a wave of briefings against him, with an unnamed member of the Cabinet claiming the Treasury was "trying to **** it up. They want to frustrate Brexit."