Still, it's a role reversal for Britain, which had been buoyed by strong growth in recent times - even after the momentous vote on June 23, 2016 to leave the EU.
Given the floor for 10 minutes at the end of a Brussels summit dinner, her first since she launched the two-year withdrawal process in March, May outlined five principles, notably that no European Union citizen resident in Britain at a cut-off date would be deported.
The discussions set to take place this month will mostly focus on three major aspects - citizens' rights, financials and other issues related to the separation process.
"That was a very constructive start to those negotiations, but it's also about how we will build a future special and deep partnership with our friends and allies in Europe".
"The EU 27 position is clear in terms of what conditions we'd like to see for our citizens there and what we can offer for United Kingdom citizens here", the diplomat said.
However, the British press doesn't share the same opinion and rushed to accuse the Brexit team of surrendering to Brussel's demands from the first day.
But with European Union citizens already guaranteed these rights across the 28-nation bloc, De Rynck said "there is nothing particularly generous about this issue".
However, the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, indicated that there would be intense negotiations over the issue.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) and British Prime Minister Theresa May attend the European Union summit in Brussels, Belgium, June 22, 2017.
Speaking alongside EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier as they arrived for talks at the European Commission, Mr Davis said he expected "challenging times ahead" in talks expected to stretch for around 16 to 18 months ahead of the UK's withdrawal from the EU in 2019.
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Asked later if it was not an "illusion" to imagine halting Brexit, the 60-year-old Pole insisted: "Politics without dreams would be a nightmare".
David Davis began negotiations yesterday.
"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I am not the only one".
"First, we need to get Brexit right".
Whatever happens with interest rates and in the Brexit talks, credit ratings agency DBRS says uncertainty "is likely to adversely impact the economy and the fiscal accounts". European citizens face far fewer hurdles and the EU is demanding that this continues.
"We are citizens first".
"We agreed that our closest collaborators will start a dialogue on Ireland. The protection of the Good Friday agreement and the maintenance of the Common Travel Area are the most urgent issues to discuss", the European Union negotiator explained.
He said that Ireland's neutrality, and the fact that we're not a member of an alliance like North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, has been beneficial to how the country is viewed across the world. If its assessment is positive, the talks will then move on to "scoping the future relationship on trade and other matters".
Tusk said that when British friends asked him if he could imagine a way for Britain to remain part of the bloc, he told them "that in fact the European Union was built on dreams that seemed impossible to achieve". It gets weaker when it allows its principles to be rejected.
May's aides declined to add detail, saying the government would present a paper to parliament on Monday that would explore the implications of the changes for family members from non-EU states and marriages of people of different nationality. This uncompromising stance is "not about punishment" or "revenge", but simply a effect of the U.K.'s decision to exit, he said.