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European Council President Donald Tusk European Council President Donald Tusk  (ANSA)

EU President Tusk says Britain's Brexit demands 'Pure Illusion'

A top European Union official has warned that Britain's view of its future ties with the EU after it leaves the block seems delusional.

By Stefan J. Bos

European Council President Donald Tusk spoke about 'Brexit' in talks with media on Saturday amid a reported agreement on future EU relations among members of the British government.

Tusk condemned British Prime Minister Theresa May's apparent deal with her cabinet on a future trading relationship with the block.

The British government seeks to maintain free trade in several sectors with the block by staying in alignment with some EU regulations.

But Britain reportedly wants to diverge in other areas to gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Tusk warned the British government that Brussels would not accept what he views as cherry picking. "If the media reports are correct, I am afraid the UK position today is based on pure illusion," he said. "It looks like the cake philosophy is still alive,” the EU official added.

'Cherry picking'

"From the very start there has been a key principle of the EU27 that there can be no "cherry picking" and no single market "à la carte," Tusk stressed.

He spoke at an EU summit where European leaders urged Britain to explain its vision of future ties with Brussels so that EU Council President Tusk can draft negotiating guidelines for next month.

Tusk told reporters that he would discuss the issue with May on Thursday. "We intend to adopt these [negotiating guidelines] whether the UK is ready with its vision of our future relations or not," he explained. "Surely it would be much better if it were, but we cannot stay standby and wait. I hope to have some clarity about the UK's plans next week when I meet Prime Minister May in London," Tusk said.

He and other European officials regret Britain's vote for a British exit, or Brexit, from the EU in a historic referendum in June 2016.

Under Article 50, Britain is scheduled to leave the EU by the end of March 2019. But it has been made difficult by the ongoing tense negotiations and an expected financial shortfall by the EU of billions of euros in contributions.

Listen to Stefan Bos' report
24 February 2018, 18:04