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EU not intimidated by British threats, says European Council chief Donald Tusk

Europe will not be "intimidated" by British threats to walk away from trade talks if it cannot get a good deal, European Council president Donald Tusk has said.

In a statement to the European Parliament, Mr Tusk dismissed suggestions that a failure to reach agreement in Brexit talks would be worse for the EU than for Britain, telling MEPs: "A 'no-deal scenario' would be bad for everyone, but above all for the UK."

Prime Minister Theresa May has said "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal" in negotiations under Article 50 of the EU treaties, which she is due to trigger at the end of this month.

Brexit Secretary David Davis said at the weekend that the Government was making contingency plans for the possibility that the UK will crash out of the EU without agreement and have to fall back on World Trade Organisation rules.

Mrs May and Chancellor Philip Hammond have indicated that if a favourable trade deal cannot be reached, Britain is ready to transform itself into a low-tax, low-regulation zone off the shore of Europe to lure international business away from its former partners.

Reporting back on last week's Council summit, Mr Tusk told the European Parliament the EU wanted Brexit talks to be "constructive and conducted in an orderly manner".

But he added: "The claims, increasingly taking the form of threats, that no agreement will be good for the UK, and bad for the EU, need to be addressed.

"I want to be clear that a 'no-deal scenario' would be bad for everyone, but above all for the UK, because it would leave a number of issues unresolved.

"We will not be intimidated by threats, and I can assure you they simply will not work.

"Our goal is to have a smooth divorce and a good framework for the future. And it is good to know that Prime Minister Theresa May shares this view."

Mr Tusk echoed European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker's recent suggestion that the UK may be able to rejoin the EU if opinions change following Brexit.

"I will do everything in my power to make sure that the EU and the UK will be close friends in the future," said Mr Tusk.

"Britain will be dearly missed as an EU member state. At the same time, I would like to stress again that the EU's door will always remain open for our British friends."

He added: "When it comes to negotiations, we will have no choice but to start the withdrawal talks once the UK notifies. We are carefully preparing for these negotiations, in close consultation with member states and the European Parliament."

Responding to Mr Tusk's comments, Prime Minister Theresa May's official spokesman said: "We approach these negotiations with a spirit of huge goodwill and with the intent of getting a good deal for ourselves and the EU."

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