Britain kicks off its formal European Union exit talks Monday, nearly a year after the country voted to leave the bloc, amid a backdrop of domestic political chaos, a weakening economy, a spate of deadly terrorist attacks and simmering social tensions following a fatal fire in a government-run housing project.
David Davis, the country's top EU negotiator, will meet with his opposite number, Michel Barnier, in Brussels to begin what is expected to be a long and arduous series of talks aimed at extracting the U.K. from more than 40 years of political and economic ties with the European Union over the next two years. The two men, along with their negotiating teams, will attempt to form an agreement on Britain's financial commitments to the bloc, the so-called "Brexit Bill" before they take on the thorny issue of the U.K.'s trade relationship once it leaves the EU in 2019.
"The most important thing I think now is for us to look to the horizon," said Britain's Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, ahead of a meeting with other foreign ministers in Luxembourg "Think about the future, and think about the new partnership, the deep and special partnership that we want to build with our friends."
Other issues on the agenda, at least in the near term, include establishing residential rights of more than 3 million EU citizens currently living in the United Kingdom -- and the 1 million British expats living in EU member states -- once the formal exit is complete.
However, Britain's negotiating leverage is, arguably at its weakest level in more than a decade after a shambolic snap election result for Prime Minister Theresa May, which surrendered her parliamentary majority and has left her floundering to cut a deal with lawmakers in Northern Ireland in order to stabilize her government, and the ongoing weakness of the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote.