Brexit can still be avoided in the United Kingdom chooses, the president of the European Council has said.
Donald Tusk told the European Parliament on Tuesday that the remaining EU 27 member states must be united in their negotiations with Britain.
“We have managed to build and maintain unity among the 27. But 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.”
Tusk added: “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”.
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.”
It came after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, indicated that agreement on a free trade deal with Britain after it leaves the European Union will take years to complete.
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”.
May told 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 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.