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Tusk: UK Brexit plans 'based on pure illusion'

February 23, 2018

European Council President Donald Tusk said there could be no "cherry-picking" on post-Brexit trade relations. British Prime Minister Theresa May will unveil Brexit plans at a speech next week.

Belgien EU Gipfel in Brüssel | Donald Tusk
Image: Reuters/P. Noble

Tusk: 'Cake philosophy is still alive'

European Council President Donald Tusk on Friday called reported British plans for post-Brexit relations with the bloc as "based on pure illusion."

Tusk told reporters he hoped to get details of British plans when he meets with Prime Minister Theresa May next Thursday, a day before she is to unveil them in a speech.

May and senior Cabinet members agreed in a meeting on Thursday to Britain's plans for relations with the EU-27 after it officially leaves the bloc in March 2019. Media reports suggest the UK wants to align with the EU on some trade issues but diverge in other areas.

Read more: Opinion: The EU budget is about more than money

Tusk said there could be "no cherry-picking and no single market 'a la carte.'"

"I'm glad that the UK government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position," the European Council president said following a meeting of the bloc's leaders on Friday. "However, if the media reports are correct, I am afraid that the UK position today is based on pure illusion."

"It seems like the 'cake' philosophy is still alive," Tusk said, referring to comments from British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the people in the UK want to "have their cake and eat it" by leaving the EU's single market and enjoying its benefits.

Read more: Boris Johnson: Brexit holds 'more hope than fear' 

The EU also wants to maintain a seamless border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, a difficult task if Britain were to leave the customs union.  

May is struggling with divisions within her Conservative Party between those that want a "clean break" and others who want to maintain close ties to the EU.

Tusk said European Union leaders would be "extremely realistic in our assessment of possible new proposals" when they meet to establish the outline for negotiations at a summit in March.

The bloc would adopt these guidelines "whether the UK is ready with its vision of our future relations or not," Tusk said.

The next stage in discussions between the UK and the EU on the future partnership is set for April.

EU leaders at an informal meeting in Brussels also addressed filling budget gaps when Britain leaves the EU, European Parliament elections, Syria and Turkey.

cw/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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