(AFP) – Brexit minister David Davis headed to Brussels Monday for his first talks there with the European Commission’s top negotiator Michel Barnier on how to tackle Britain’s divorce from the EU.
“I want to begin the work of ensuring we have a positive, strong and productive relationship with our closest neighbours,” Davis said in a statement.
His spokeswoman said that after meeting Barnier on Monday Davis would travel to Strasbourg on Tuesday to meet the European Parliament’s Brexit pointman Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister.
“The meetings will not seek to open negotiations… but to lay the ground for a constructive dialogue and a smooth and orderly exit which is in the interests of all parties,” Davis’s ministry, the Department for Exiting the European Union, said in a statement.
The ministry also said that the trip would be “the first of a series of visits across the EU”.
European Union leaders have ruled out any formal Brexit negotiations before Britain invokes Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the official exit procedure, following its June vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.
Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to do so by the end of March but has revealed little about what kind of deal she is aiming for, saying only that she wanted to cut EU migrant numbers and retain access for British businesses to Europe’s single market.
EU leaders have said the two aims are incompatible.
Barnier is a former French agriculture minister and France’s one-time European Commissioner.
Last month he said the official language for the Brexit negotiations had yet to be decided, denying reports he had insisted they be in his native French.