The president of the European Council has hit back at “intimidating threats” from Britain that the failure to agree an exit deal with the bloc would hit Europe harder than the UK.
In an escalation of the tough talk ahead of the UK’s formal Brexit negotiations – due to start from next month – Donald Tusk said on Wednesday: “No deal is bad for everyone, above all the UK”, he told MEPs.
“We will not be intimidated by threats that no Brexit deal is good for the UK and bad for the EU”, said the former Polish prime minister who now represents the EU 27′s member state governments.
Mr Tusk’s comments come after the UK has said a “no deal” scenario – where Britain fails to agree the outlines of its future trading relationship with Europe – is not in the interests of the bloc.
Prime minister Theresa May has said that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and foreign secretary Boris Johnson has said that such an outcome would be “perfectly OK”.
But Mr Tusk’s warning echoes policymakers at the European Central Bank who insist Brexit will be more damaging for the City of London, rather than the continent – as claimed by Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
“[I] will do everything in my power to make sure that UK, EU are close friends after Brexit and stress that EU’s door will always remain open”, added Mr Tusk.
The European Parliament, which will also have a say on any final deal on divorce terms and trade links, is likely to take a tough line in negotiations, insisting Britain remains under the purview of the EU’s highest court – a key red line for prime minister Theresa May. (Read more from the FT here.)
Britain will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the month, kicking off two-year exit talks centered on the UK’s exit bill, the rights of EU and UK citizens in Britain and the continent, and the new trading relationship between the two sides.