Brussels, Belgium. With the start of the Brexit talks getting underway, the UK has already shown its intention to get the matter finished by agreeing to the EU timetable and going forward from there.

UK Brexit Secretary David Davis agreed to settle the divorce terms before getting to the details about future relations with the EU, by agreeing straightforward on a timetable the EU has created to manage the negotiations. This is a stark retreat from Davis’ core demands before the talks, where he had called for parallel talks on both aspects of the process.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May expects the process to be completed by March 2019 but the EU has warned that the two sides should reach a deal before October 2018.

Davis, who had warned the EU’s timetable would risk an early collapse of the talks, said after meeting Barnier that backtracking on London’s preferences was not a sign of weakness. “It’s not when it starts, it’s how it finishes that matters,” he argued, noting that the timetable was “completely consistent” with what the government of Prime Minister Theresa May had sought.

The UK Brexit minister raised the issue once again yesterday only to be shut down by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who said the European Council would only proceed to future ties when “sufficient progress has been made” in other areas.

There are three issues will drive the early exit talks; the rights of EU nationals living in the UK,  the UK’s “exit” payment to the EU, and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Questioned if he had made any concessions to the UK in exchange, Barnier said the talks were not about “punishment” or “revenge” and the two sides had to simply accept the “responsibility and the consequences” that came with their decisions.

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