EU Brexit negotiator sees 'very difficult road' ahead

FILE PHOTO: Michel Barnier, Chief Negotiator for the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the United Kingdom under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, holds a news conference at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium December 6, 2016. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir/File Photo - RTX333GH

VALLETTA (Reuters) - The EU’s chief negotiator in the talks on Britain’s exit from the European Union said on Wednesday that “today is day one of a very difficult road”.

Michel Barnier was in Malta on the day British Prime Minister Theresa May was due to formally trigger two years of exit talks under the EU’s Article 50 divorce process.

Barnier, who held talks with Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat, told reporters this was a “key moment” for the EU, and it was important to achieve a “fair agreement” not only on the Brexit issue but also for the long-term future of the EU itself.

Muscat said any deal for Britain had nevertheless to be inferior to membership. He said Malta, which holds the rotating presidency of the council of the European Union, would deliver official guidelines for the Brexit talks to Barnier within 48 hours.

“We will rely on your good judgment. This is a sad day for the EU,” Muscat told Barnier.

Editing by Crispian Balmer and Catherine Evans