The Times, 25 May 2017.
So we now have a date. June 19 is expected to be the day when David Davis and Michel Barnier sit down for the first time to begin 15 months of Brexit negotiations.
The EU wants negotiations to be divided into four-week cycles, each focused on one issue. From the Commission side week one would involve political preparation, followed by a week in which documents would be disclosed by both sides and officials would try to establish common ground.
The third week would see Mr Barnier and Mr Davis go head to head, mainly in Brussels but also, possibly, in London. In the last week, Mr Barnier would report on the results of the negotiations to the 27 member states and the European parliament. One senior EU source even raised the possibility that each block of talks would end with a joint press conference by the two men outlining the progress that had been made. London is unlikely to be enamoured of that suggestion.
None of this, of course, has been agreed by the UK and the discussions on the 19th are more likely to be talks about talks rather than anything more substantive.
However if a structure can be agreed it would be a good backdrop for the EU Council meeting later that week. Alternatively it could be a good backdrop for the “row” that the Brexit secretary threatened recently.
For his part Mr Barnier is sounding conciliatory. Asked about repeated UK threats to “walk away” if any deal was not good enough he replied: “That’s not my option. I’d advise everyone to explain exactly what a no deal would entail, what would be the consequences. It won’t be business as usual.”
He added: “I do understand that the UK has different positions but as we have said a negotiation is a negotiation. There will be difficult moments, there will be moments of tension, we are ready for that. But we need to see it on the long term, put it in perspective.”