Brexit talks oficially kick off as United Kingdom hopes for 'happy resolution'

Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said: "If we don't succeed, both sides will lose".

However, Britain's negotiating leverage is, arguably at its weakest level in more than a decade after a shambolic snap election result for Prime Minister Theresa May, which surrendered her parliamentary majority and has left her floundering to cut a deal with lawmakers in Northern Ireland in order to stabilize her government, and the ongoing weakness of the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote.

We are told that the United Kingdom negotiating team, led by David Davis, the Brexit secretary, travels to Belgium this morning "confident" about getting a "bold and ambitious" deal.

Davis, a prominent tough-talking figure in the "Leave" campaign, sounded a positive note too, saying "there is more that unites us than divides us".

Britain appears to have given in on the EU's insistence that the negotiationsfirst focus on three key divorce issues, before moving onto the future EU-UK relationship and a possible trade deal.

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Davis said the talks would be carried out in "a positive and constructive tone", with Britain looking to forge a "strong and special partnership for the future".

His priority, he said, was to clear up the uncertainties which last June's Brexit vote had created. European Union diplomats hope this first meeting, and a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday where May will encounter - but not negotiate with - fellow European Union leaders, can improve the atmosphere after some spiky exchanges.

Anxious by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain voted previous year to end its four-decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc - the first state ever to do so.

The occasion marks the start of Brexit negotiations after Prime Minister Theresa May activated Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - the mechanism that officially notifies the European Union that a country wishes to leave the 27-member bloc - on March 29 and set a two-year negotiations period in motion.

For that reason, Brussels wants as a priority to guarantee rights for 3 million European Union citizens in Britain and be paid tens of billions of euros it says London will owe on its departure. "The best way we can spend this week is to rebuild trust", another European source said.

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Shocked residents spoke of a whole family that was trying to flee their home in a vehicle but got caught in "a tornado of flames". France has offered three firefighting planes, while Spain has already sent two water-bombing aircraft to help tackle the fires.

Working groups will discuss aspects of the negotiations in the afternoon before a final meeting between Mr Davis and Mr Barnier.

While "Brexiteers" have strongly backed Ms May's proposed clean break with the single market and customs union, finance minister Philip Hammond and others have this month echoed calls by businesses for less of a "hard Brexit" and retaining closer customs ties.

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