Brexit minister David Davis and the EU's French chief negotiator Michel Barnier are due to hold the first formal negotiation session in Brussels this morning.
Prime Minister Theresa May had taken a hard-line approach on leaving the EU but a disastrous election result for her Conservative party on June 8 has left London's policy in disarray and her own political future uncertain.
The British government wants the negotiations to include the future relationship with Europe and an all-important trade deal with the bloc.
But Brussels has ruled out any consideration of those issues until progress has been made on its key demands -- Britain's exit bill, estimated by Brussels at around 100 billion euros ($112 billion); the rights of three million EU nationals living in Britain and the one million Britons on the continent; and the status of the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
"We must think about the deep and meaningful partnership with Europe," he said.
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