Brussels: European Union Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday urged Britain to change its mind about leaving the bloc next year, as the time to conclude a Brexit agreement runs short and EU leaders wait for more details on how the country sees their future ties.
"If the UK government sticks to its decision to leave, Brexit will become a reality, with all its negative consequences, in March next year unless there is a change of heart among our British friends," Tusk told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France on Tuesday.
Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders and speaks on their behalf, quoted UK Brexit envoy David Davis as saying that "if a democracy cannot change its mind, it ceases to be a democracy."
"We here on the continent haven't had a change of heart. Our hearts are still open to you," Tusk said.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker added: "I hope that will be heard clearly in London."
Britain is set to leave the EU on 29 March, 2019, but negotiations on its departure and future EU-UK relations must be concluded by October to leave parliaments time to ratify any agreement.
Brexit talks have progressed painfully slowly, and while the EU says it's ready to discuss future ties with London, leaders are still seeking more details about how Prime Minister Theresa May's government sees those links.
"What we need today is more clarity on the UK's vision," Tusk said. "The hardest work is still ahead of us and time is limited."
Negotiations are continuing on a transition period that would help ease Britain out of the bloc next year. The EU is insisting on less than two years, until the end of 2020 --when the Union's current long-term budget period ends.
Britain will not be able to conclude a trade deal with the EU or any other country until that period is over, and it will have to continue to obey all European regulations without having any say in the way this bloc of more than half a billion people is run.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People's Party group—the biggest in the EU parliament—said: "My message to London is: please don't complain anymore. Please stop complaining. Please deliver. Give us an outlook about what you want to achieve for the future relationship."
Published Date: Jan 16, 2018 17:15 PM | Updated Date: Jan 16, 2018 17:15 PM