UK's Hammond says economy should be priority 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.

The start of parliament has been delayed since last Thursday's election, a gamble May took to strengthen her hand in talks to leave the European Union but which has left her scrambling for a deal with the eurosceptic DUP to keep her in power.

The concession sets the tone for negotiations over Britain's withdrawal from the European Union that are set to begin in Brussels on Monday.

Only if "sufficient progress" is made on those thorny topics will he allow discussions to turn to the trade deal that May wants.

"Our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other", said the spokesman. "We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account". "We are clear this is what is set out in Article 50".

"Let's start the negotiations, and at the end we will always come to reasonable decisions", he said.

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Earlier, Andrea Leadsom, leader of the lower house of parliament, said the government had agreed with Queen Elizabeth, who reads out the new government programme, that the "state opening of parliament will take place on 21 June 2017".

The Brexit Department said in a statement that the UK's withdrawal and future ties are "intimately linked".

The Prime Minister has insisted the United Kingdom will leave the single market, replace customs union membership with a new deal and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

"And if that wasn't enough, calling an unnecessary general election purely for the self interest of the Conservative Party and having mucked that campaign up they are now putting the country in hock to the DUP".

With Prime Minister Theresa May still working to shore up a deal with a small Northern Irish party to prop up her Conservative government after she lost her parliamentary majority in the June 8 election, Hammond's comments could be a sign that London is easing back its approach to Brexit. That's raised speculation that she will seek a softer Brexit by trying to win continued access to Britain's biggest market.

Critics of her approach have urged her to give ground in order to safeguard jobs and the economy.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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