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Philip Hammond: UK must be pragmatic in Brexit talks

Hammond, speaking to reporters before a meeting of the 28 European Union finance ministers on Friday, said Britain should work closely with the bloc to prioritise jobs and prosperity when Brexit talks start next week.Verhofstadt complained that recent years of uncertainty over Britain’s place in the EU had “paralysed the union itself” and stopped it reforming.A Conservative Party source said it was time for the government to get on with its business.The Conservative source said: “We’re confident of getting an agreement, we’re confident that the Queen’s speech will be passed”.She is also trying to contain outrage at home over a London tower block fire which left at least 30 people dead.A key stipulation from the European Union side has been that the divorce agreement must be largely settled before the talks can move on to any future relationship between the bloc and its soon-to-be-departing member.Brexit talks in Brussels on Monday will focus on the status of expats, the UK’s “divorce bill” and the Northern Ireland border, rather than on future trade relations with the European Union, it has been confirmed.Some opposition politicians say that stance is no longer acceptable, with some in her own party pressing May to soften her position and focus on saving jobs after Britain leaves.Mr Hammond said: “My clear view, and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is that we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth, protecting prosperity as we enter those negotiations and take them forward”.Brexit negotiators will discuss Monday Britain’s financial obligations to the European Union as the long, complicated and potentially perilous process of the United Kingdom leaving the bloc finally gets underway.Addressing her party on Monday after one of its most memorable electoral failures, May said she would take a broader, more consultative approach to the Brexit talks.Negotiations had been expected to begin next week but May’s loss of her parliamentary majority in a general election last week raised doubts about the date.”We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account”.”As we also said in our Article 50 letter, “agreeing a high-level approach to the issues arising from our withdrawal will of course be an early priority”.