The United Kingdom and the European Union are set to launch the formal round of negotiations expected to settle terms for Britain’s eventual withdrawal from the 28-member bloc.
Britain’s Brexit secretary, David Davis, will be in Brussels on July 17 with his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, for four days of talks.
The sides have less than two years to settle terms before Britain leaves – either with a deal or without -- on March 30, 2019.
The plans are for Davis and Barnier to shake hands in a photo opportunity at the European Commission's Berlaymont headquarters at 9:15 a.m. before the first full negotiation session.
The two negotiators met informally last month, when they exchanged gifts. But this session is expected to be more tense, with many difficult questions to be decided, including the rights of EU citizens in Britain and vice versa after Brexit.
"We made a good start last month, and this week we’ll be getting into the real substance," Davis said on July 16. "Protecting the rights of all our citizens is the priority for me going into this round, and I'm clear that it's something we must make real progress on."
There are some 3 million EU citizens in Britain, and about 1.5 million U.K. nationals in the other 27 EU countries. Until Brexit, most EU citizens have so-called “freedom of movement,” allowing them to reside and work in member states.
Also to be determined is the cost of Britain’s exit from the bloc. The EU reportedly wants Britain to pay from $70 billion to more than $110 billion to cover ongoing EU budget commitments, an amount the British have rejected.
Finance chief Philip Hammond said on July 16 that Britain will take responsibility for the money it owes, saying, “"We're not a country that walks away from its debts."
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson had earlier said the EU could "go whistle" for its money in reaction to financial demands.
British officials recently have also brought up the idea a transitional period after the March 2019 deadline to avoid a "cliff edge" scenario when it leaves the EU, although the length and details have yet to be determined.
Three weeks of further talks are scheduled to start in late August.
With reporting by Reuters and the BBC