Britain has announced that Brexit negotiations will begin on June 19, despite earlier speculation they could be delayed, as Prime Minister Theresa May is still scrambling to prop up her minority government.
Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will start talks over Britain’s departure from the EU on Monday, Britain’s Department for Exiting the European Union said on Thursday.
“David Davis, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator, agreed today to launch Article 50 negotiations on Monday, 19 June,” the department said in a statement.
There has been uncertainty over whether May will still be able to pursue a ‘hard Brexit’ after a humiliating defeat in the general election left her short of a parliamentary majority and requiring the support of other parties.
Negotiations will now start two days before the official state opening of parliament.
A Tory source claimed the Queen’s Speech will be going ahead on Wednesday, June 21, regardless of whether Prime Minister Theresa May seals a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which she is hoping will give her the backing she needs to get her program through Parliament.
Although sources from both No.10 and the DUP say discussions are “progressing,” the PM is yet to confirm whether an agreement will be reached in time.
A senior Conservative source told BBC News: “Talks are progressing well and the two parties are in broad agreement on the principles of the Queen’s Speech.
“Both parties are committed to the Union, Brexit, combating terrorism and prosperity across the UK.”
The source then suggested the government would proceed with its program with or without the DUP’s backing.
“While talks are progressing it’s important the government gets on with its business. We are confident there will be sufficient support for passing the Queen’s Speech.”
Meanwhile, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds echoed suggestions that the talks between the parties may linger until after the Queen’s Speech, saying Wednesday’s opening of Parliament is not a “deadline.”
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It is thought the DUP will eventually agree a deal with the Tories as the two parties have enjoyed close ties over the years, but ultimately because the Unionists are unlikely to want a Republican Sinn Fein-backed Jeremy Corbyn as the next Prime Minister.
May is seeking a “confidence and supply” deal with the DUP that would see the party backing the Tory government on the Queen’s Speech and budget requests.
The deal, however, has been met with widespread criticism from different parties amid concerns it may harm Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Former Tory PM John Major was among the most vocal critics, as he said the deal would make Britain appear partial to the Unionist cause, potentially rekindling conflict between the Catholics and Protestants in the region.