Britain gears up for negotiations of a 'lifetime' after EU outlines Brexit stance

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EU Chief Negotiator for Brexit Barnier chats with EC President Juncker and France's President Hollande during a EU summit in Brussels

European Chief Negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier chats with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and France's President Francois Hollande during a EU summit in Brussels, Belgium April 29, 2017. Reuters/Eric Vidal

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's minister for leaving the European Union said on Saturday the country was gearing up for the most complex negotiations "in our lifetimes" after the European Union outlined its tough approach to Brexit talks.

Earlier in the day EU leaders endorsed stiff divorce terms for Britain on Saturday and warned Britons to have "no illusions" about swiftly securing a new relationship to keep their access to EU markets.

And while British Prime Minister Theresa May dined with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday in a bid to warm ties before talks start, David Davis, the minister responsible for Brexit, said negotiations would be hard.

"Both sides are clear - we want these negotiations to be conducted in the spirit of goodwill, sincere cooperation and with the aim of establishing a close partnership between the UK and the EU going forward," Davis said in a statement in response to the EU's Brexit guidelines.

"But there is no doubt that these negotiations are the most complex the UK has faced in our lifetimes. They will be tough and, at times even confrontational."

Davis added that there were people in Europe who opposed the aims of the talks, and "people at home trying to undermine them."

Britain is set for a national election on June 8 as Prime Minister May seeks to strengthen her hand domestically before beginning negotiations with the EU.

May started the formal process of leaving the EU at the end of March, starting a countdown of two years for the terms of departure to be agreed.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Ros Russell)

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