Britain-EU Brexit talks to start Monday as planned

"Following discussions in Brussels today, both sides agreed that the formal negotiations under the Article 50 process can now start", the statement said.

Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, echoing remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, said the door to Europe remained open to Britain, and it was up to the British people whether they wanted to change their minds about leaving the EU.

A spokeswoman for the Brexit department said: "We have said consistently that resolving the status of European Union citizens living in the United Kingdom and UK nationals living in other member states is our first priority for negotiations".

A spokesman for his Department for Exiting the European Union said Britain had been "crystal clear" about its approach.

"As we set out in the Article 50 letter, our view is that withdrawal agreement and terms of the future relationship must be agreed alongside each other", a spokesman for the department, which is headed up by David Davis, said.

"We believe that the withdrawal process can not be concluded without the future relationship also being taken into account".

But May's predecessor, David Cameron, said there would be pressure after last week's surprise for a "softer" Brexit that gave greater priority to a close trading deal with the EU. "That has always been our first aim and that is what we will do".

"We are fully prepared and ready for negotiations to start", commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein told reporters.

The former First Minister met with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at Government Buildings earlier today - where the two discussed the ongoing talks to restore devolution, and the DUP's new role in Westminster.