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EU announces Brexit talks to start around June 19 as UK threatens walk-out

The EU’s General Affairs Council agreed its timetable and directives for Britain’s exit negotiations on May 22, as the major UK and EU negotiators appeared to take strongly conflicting positions on their content.

The EU’s Directives stipulate that the UK’s withdrawal is “at the latest” for 30 March 2019 at 00:00 Brussels time, unless the European Council, in agreement with the United Kingdom, unanimously decides to extend this period. Announcing the timetable, the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he hoped the first round of negotiations would take place the week of June 19 so he can brief the European heads of government during a June 22-23 European Council meeting. Final results of the UK’s June 8 election are due on June 9.

The Directives include a tough EU negotiating position on the amount the UK needs to pay to leave. But the previous day Britain’s chief negotiator, David Davis, had threatened to walk away from Brexit talks unless Brussels dropped those demands to charge it €100bn to leave the European Union.

Barnier’s May 22 reply was to dismiss the possibility that the UK and EU might be unable to reach an agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU. It is unclear how much of all this is just pre-negotiation bluster.