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The European Union will hold a summit of leaders to conclude its response to the UK’s notification of exit on April 29, in the middle of France’s presidential elections, Donald Tusk has said.

Mr Tusk, president of the EU council, said leaders from the remaining 27 member states would meet on the date after the UK government informed him of its intention to trigger the Article 50 Brexit process on March 29. This will kickstart at least a two-year exit process.

The Saturday April 29 summit will come a week after the first round of France’s presidential election but before the final round vote in early May.

The summit will be used as a forum for leaders to adopt their formal guidelines for negotiations which will be headed by the European Commission.

Mr Tusk said talks will be carried out to agree a deal that will be “least painful for the EU”.

“Our main priority for negotiations must be to create as much certainty and clarity as possible for all citizens, companies and member states that will be negatively affected by Brexit”, said the former Polish prime minister in Brussels on Tuesday.

“I personally wish the UK hadn’t chosen to leave the EU, but the majority of British voters decided otherwise.”

His comments came during a press conference with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe. Mr Abe said he hoped the EU and UK would continue maintain a “close partnership” during the Brexit process, adding that a “transition period” will be relevant.

EU leaders will be meeting to mark the 60th anniversary of the bloc in Rome later this week.

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