David Davis and his EU adversary Michel Barnier showed they had #moreincommon today when they presented each other with almost matching gifts.
As the long-anticipated Brexit talks kicked off in Brussels, the two men leading the negotiations swapped presents to mark the historic occasion.
Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, presented Davis with a hard-carved wooden walking stick from his home town of Savoie, in the French Alps.
The UK Brexit Secretary gifted Barnier a first edition of the mountaineering book Regards vers Annapurna – signed by Marcel Ichac, one of the two authors.
The mountaineering gifts seem to be inspired by a speech Barnier delivered in May, when he talked of the shared love of hiking he has with Theresa May – who famously decided to call a snap general election during a walking holiday in Wales.
The Brexit Department described the first day of talks as “constructive” in a tweet of a photograph of Davis and Barnier with their gifts.
Ahead of the talks kicking off this morning, Davis tried to calm down the aggressive rhetoric that had come from London in recent weeks.
In May, the Prime Minister accused the EU of making “threats” to the UK, and claimed the “these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June.”
In Brussels today, Davis used much more conciliatory language, and said: “While there will undoubtedly be challenging times ahead of us in the negotiations we will do all that we can to ensure we deliver a deal that works in the best interests of all of our citizens.
“To that end we are starting this negotiation in a positive and constructive tone, determined to build a strong and special partnership between ourselves, our European allies and friends.”
Barnier set out his priorities for the talks in his speech, and said: “Our objective is clear. We must first tackle the uncertainties caused by Brexit, first for citizens but also for the beneficiaries of the EU policies, and for the impact on borders, in particular Ireland.
“I hope that today we can identify priorities and a timetable that would allow me to report to the European Council later this week that we had a constructive opening of negotiations.”
Ahead of the talks, Davis emailed his 12 negotiating objectives to Conservative Party supporters.