Tusk: Outcome of Brexit talks "up to the UK"

PUBLISHED: 10:06 24 October 2017 | UPDATED: 10:31 24 October 2017

European Council president Donald Tusk

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The outcome of the Brexit negotiations are "up to the UK", European Council president Donald Tusk said today.

In an update to the European Parliament following last week's EU summit he said the UK would be responsible for whether there would be a "good deal, no deal or no Brexit".

The former Polish prime minister said he was "obsessed" with with the remaining 27 EU countries staying united and admitted that Brexit was the union's "toughest stress test".

He told MEPs: "If we fail then the negotiations will end in our defeat. It's 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 by being together."

The warning comes a day after prime minister Theresa May told Parliament she had a "degree of confidence" of making enough progress on the divorce negotiations by December to begin talks on a future trade agreement with the EU.

Mr Tusk was joined by EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Parliament's plenary sitting in Strasbourg, 16 months to the day since the continent woke up to the news that the UK had voted to leave the union.

Mr Juncker told MEPs that the European Commission was "not negotiating in a hostile mood".

"We want a deal", he said, adding that those arguing for no deal "have no friends in the Commission" and that a no-deal Brexit was "not our working assumption".

His words come after a report of his recent dinner with Mrs May appeared in the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper in which he apparently described her as "tired" and "defeated".

German CDU MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right European People's Party grouping in the Parliament, said the 27 remaining EU states had shown there could be "no cherry-picking" over Brexit.

Accusing Brexiteers in the UK of having "no common plan" for how to leave, he said British businesses were getting "more and more nervous" about the outcome of talks.

“We’re preparing a scenario for leaving without an agreement, I think that’s a good step," he said.

"And the business community that is what we see from the London side is getting more and more nervous.

“The Brexiteers have no common plan for the future of their country especially their relationships towards the EU. We cannot accept that a country outside the EU will have the same conditions and the same status like a country inside of the EU, so there must be a difference.”

Similarly the leader of the centre-left Progessive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats grouping, Italian Gianni Pitella, blamed the lack of progress in the talks on a "lack of preparation" on the UK's side.

But Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, who heads the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, called for more pragmatism from the EU side in its approach to the talks.

"There needs to be an understanding from the EU 27 where the British people are coming from," he said, saying the UK's priority was was keeping open trade.

"Perhaps the more the EU talks about the issues which resonate with the UK, it may find the UK is more willing to give concessions on the issues the EU 27 care most about and prioritise."

UKIP MEP Ray Finch, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, accused Theresa May of "quietly surrendering" in the Brexit talks and called on the UK Government to "shake hands and walk away".

He claimed the "supine" behaviour of the British government would still leave the UK "subservient" to the EU and accused ministers of "betraying" the voters who put them into government at the last election on the back of a promise that "Brexit means Brexit".

Mr Tusk also told MEPs there would be a special summit in February next year to decide how the composition of the European Parliament should be changed after Brexit.

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