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EU's Tusk says British views on future ties "pure illusion"

24 February 2018

Arriving at an informal meeting of the 27 other European Union heads of government, Mr Juncker said Theresa May had not briefed him on the Chequers meeting of her Brexit "war cabinet" when ministers agreed a broad policy for the next stage of negotiations, on trade.

In an article - for The Independent - attacking the "road to Brexit" series of speeches being made by senior ministers, Mr Blair wrote: "Each speech in this freaky parade of Government ministers created to show unity only further exposes the division".

The real test, however, will come when May's team put their demands to the EU.

European Council President Donald Tusk - who represents the member states - said it was "unrealistic" to expect any agreement on the budget before the 2019 European elections, pointing out that the last budget took 29 months.

He added that the PM's top team agreed there will be areas of the economy - such as the automotive sector - where Britain will align itself with European regulations and others where it will diverge.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has called for a clean break with Brussels, and Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who favours closer ties, were among those present.

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"There was a very, very good atmosphere and we agreed on the way forward", said Michael Gove, the environment minister and a leading Brexiteer.

The EU says Britain can not have a selective access to its single market or customs union, saying the more rights it will have vis-a-vis the bloc in the future, the more obligations it must accept as well.

It seems unlikely that the European Union will sign up to such a plan.

"It is quite obvious that we need some conditionality", Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen told reporters when asked if European Union money from the next budget should be linked to observing the rule of law and accepting migrants.

"I'm glad that the United Kingdom government seems to be moving towards a more detailed position", said Tusk, who will meet May in London the day before her speech.

"So it's always, if you want something, there are certain rules you have to abide by".

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On Wednesday, the Commission published a slideshow presentation that rejected the U.K.'s emerging strategy as "not compatible with the principles" of the bloc's negotiating position.

The leading Tory backbench Brexiteer hit back after marathon gathering of senior Cabinet members met to find a united front on European Union withdrawal.

While the EEC, and later the EU, were limited to economic cooperation and trade and investment within a customs union - together with collaboration on issues like security, counter terrorism and policing, transport, education, science and technology - the organisation seems to have worked well to the benefit of its member states.

Mr Corbyn is expected to give his backing to a customs union arrangement with the EU in a major Brexit speech on Monday, which would pile further pressure on Mrs May.

And in the weeks leading to the meeting, civil servants appeared to intervene with the leak of a now discredited impact assessment which suggested Britain would be economically better off staying in the customs union and single market under Brussels rule.

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EU's Tusk says British views on future ties