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”.