It is up to the UK to decide whether there is a good Brexit deal – or even if the country decides to leave the European Union at all, Donald Tusk has told British MEPs.
The European Council president said it was up to Theresa May’s Government whether there is a “good deal, no deal or no Brexit” at all. Meanwhile, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator indicated that agreement on a free trade deal with Britain after it leaves the European Union will take years to complete.
Michel Barnier said the discussions would be very different from the first phase of the negotiations on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal and would entail “risks”. His comments came after Mrs May told British MPs there could be no transition period after Britain leaves the EU unless there was agreement on a trade deal.
In a Commons statement, the British Prime Minister said she remained confident that a deal was possible following the latest EU summit last week in Brussels. However, her remarks caused consternation among opposition MPs who warned the UK was heading for a “cliff-edge” break with the EU which businesses have been desperate to avoid.
Updating the European Parliament on last week’s Brussels summit, Mr Tusk stressed his obsession with the unity of the 27 members who will remain in the EU after the UK’s departure.
“Ahead of us is still the toughest stress test. If we fail it, the negotiations will end in our defeat,” he said.
“We must keep our unity regardless of the direction of the talks. The EU will be able to rise to every scenario as long as we are not divided.
“It is in fact up to London how this will end: With a good deal, no deal or no Brexit.
“But in each of these scenarios we will protect our common interest only by being together.”
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker moved to reassure the UK that there was no “hostile” agenda from Brussels and a “no-deal” scenario was “not our working assumption”.
Mr Juncker told MEPs in Strasbourg: “The Commission is not negotiating in a hostile mood. We want a deal. Those who don’t want a deal – the no-dealers – they had no friends in the Commission.”