EU President Donald Tusk called for Brexit talks to start as soon as possible as he met British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Thursday (8 September), following Britain’s vote to leave the European Union.
At the beginning of the meeting on Downing Street, Tusk told May: “I’m aware that it is not easy but I still hope you will be ready to start the process as soon as possible.”
Tusk said he would “discuss process for Brexit” with May, who has said she does not plan to begin the formal procedure to leave the EU until next year.
“Our goal to establish (the) closest possible EU-UK relations,” Tusk wrote on Twitter before the meeting.
Our goal to establish closest possible EU-UK relations. Ball in UK court to start negotiations. In everybody's best interest to start asap
— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) September 8, 2016
The EU leader is touring European capitals ahead of a summit in Slovakia this month where the 27 EU leaders — the entire bloc, except Britain – will gather to discuss the fallout from Britain’s 23 June EU referendum.
“It doesn’t mean that we are going to discuss our future relations with the UK in Bratislava, because for this… we need the formal notification, I mean triggering Article 50” of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, Tusk said.
May told Tusk she wanted a “smooth” Brexit process and told him they had “serious issues” to discuss.
At the G20 summit in China, May had admitted that Brexit would not be “plain sailing”.
That was clear within days, as Downing Street was forced to slap down the Minister for Leaving the EU, David Davis, after he told parliament that if remaining in the single market meant ceding control of immigration, then the UK would choose to leave the single market.
Number 10 immediately had to explain Davis was expressing a personal opinion, not government policy – even though he was addressing lawmakers in parliament in his first speech spelling out Brexit possibilities.
May herself, at the G20, held preliminary talks with countries such as Australia and other Pacific nations on the possibilities of biltareral UK trade deals – even though it is a grey area whether London should be holding any discussions prior to actually leaving the EU.
Triggering Article 50, which May has said she will not do this year, leads to a two-year process of exiting the 28-member bloc.
All nations must ratify the deal, although if there is unanimity, the two-year deadline could be extended.
Failure to agree a deal would see the UK dumped out of the EU in a ‘hard’ Brexit, without preferential trade or tariff terms.