There is no doubt that negotiating a divorce settlement and trade deal with the rest of the EU within two years is going to be an uphill struggle.
So it was without subtlety that the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier gave his British counterpart David Davis a carved wooden hiking stick as a gift on the first day of Brexit talks.
It was not the first time Barnier, himself a keen climber, has used mountain imagery to warn Theresa May of the perils of leaving the EU.
“If you like walking in the mountains, you have to learn a number of rules: You have to learn to put one foot in front of the other because sometimes you are on a steep and rocky path,” Barnier said after meeting the prime minister in May. He added that it was important to watch for falling rocks on what “could be a lengthy path”.
For his part, Davis gifted Barnier with a book on mountaineering: Maurice Herzog's Annapurna.
The book details the French climber’s ascent up the 26,000ft Annapurna Massif in the Himalayas.
Twitter users were quick to point out the irony of Davis’ choice of gift.
Jonathan Gaventa, a think tank director from Brussels, wrote: “Annapurna was an incredibly risky journey into the unknown, driven by patriotic pride and a macho refusal to turn around.”
Gaventa added: “The journey was far from straightforward. For weeks the team couldn't even find the right mountain, let alone figure out how to climb it.”
Herzog did eventually make it to the summit, but lost several fingers and toes to frostbite in the process, while others in his party went snow-blind and nearly died trying to help him there.
There’s no doubt that Annapurna is a thrilling read, but it makes an ominous choice of book at the start of Brexit negotiations.
But some would say the gift is a perfect metaphor for the... 'mountainous' task ahead.