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Talks about Brexit talks, but no date for real negotiation

BRUSSELS, June 12 (Reuters) - British officials held "talks about talks" with the European Union's Brexit man in Brussels on Monday but actual negotiations, scheduled to start in a week's time, may be delayed by political upheaval in London.

As Prime Minister Theresa May tried to shore up her authority after losing her Conservative government's majority in an election she had called to strengthen her hand in the EU talks, her Brexit Secretary David Davis said negotiations may not now start on June 19 as May had previously said.

That is because she is also trying to schedule the formal debate of her new government programme for next week and had yet on Monday to agree a final deal with the small Northern Irish Protestant party on whose support she will rely in parliament.

May's spokesman said the prime minister, who in March set Britain on a two-year countdown to leaving the EU that included a clean break with the bloc's single market and customs union, was not changing her position on what she wants from Brussels.

But there were new calls for her to retreat from a position that some critics call a "hard Brexit" and seek a softer option.

It is not clear what many mean by that, though in general it refers to avoiding erecting new barriers to trade, possibly at the cost of accepting more regulations from Brussels.

Ruth Davidson, the influential leader of the Conservatives in Scotland, which voted to remain in the EU last year and where May's party won rather than lost seats on Thursday, called for a deal that put "economic growth first".

A source close to Davidson told Reuters she wanted a "shift in thinking" that would put less emphasis on cutting immigration -- a key issue in the Brexit referendum a year ago.

For now, EU officials said they were ready to open negotiations at any time on the basis of May's existing demands.

They delivered to the British delegation two negotiating documents setting out the Union's demands on preserving the rights of EU citizens in Britain and on payments from Britain before it leaves the bloc.

The British side in the lunchtime talks with Barnier was led by Oliver Robbins, the senior civil servant in Davis's Brexit ministry. He was accompanied by Britain's ambassador to the EU, according to an account from an EU official. (Reporting by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Catherine Evans)