LONDON (AFP) – Britain begins historic talks Monday on leaving the European Union while still mourning the victims of a devastating fire and reeling from an election that has badly weakened the government.
Brexit minister David Davis will travel to Brussels to meet Michel Barnier, the EU s chief negotiator, to kick off hugely complex withdrawal negotiations that are expected to conclude within two years.
Worried by immigration and loss of sovereignty, Britain last year voted to end its decades-old membership of the 28-country bloc — the first state ever to do so — in a shock referendum result.
The government has developed a strategy of so-called “hard Brexit”: leaving the European single market and the customs union in order to control immigration from the EU.
But that entire approach has come under question following the June 8 general election in which Prime Minister Theresa May lost her centre-right Conservative party s parliamentary majority.
May has clung on to power but has so far failed to conclude an agreement with Northern Ireland s ultra-conservative Democratic Unionist Party that would bolster her ability to govern.
The Conservatives now have only 317 MPs in the 650-seat House of Commons and need the support of the DUP s 10 MPs to command a razor-thin majority.
The government is due to present its legislative programme at the opening of parliament on Wednesday, which will be followed by a key confidence vote several days later.
Adding to what Queen Elizabeth II called the “sombre national mood” have been three terrorist attacks in three months and a fire in a London tower block in which 58 people are presumed dead.