Donald Tusk has warned Boris Johnson he will not co-operate on a no-deal Brexit and hopes the prime minister will not want to go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’.
Speaking at the start of the G7 summit in France, the European Council president said the EU was “willing to listen to ideas that are operational, realistic and acceptable to all member states, including Ireland”.
The prime minister has insisted the UK will leave the EU on 31 October “do or die”.
Downing Street has been playing down any chance of a Brexit breakthrough, with the PM warning on Friday that people should “not hold their breath” on reaching an agreement.
The main stumbling block is the backstop, which was intended to be used to avoid the return of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland if a UK-EU trade deal is not agreed.
The three-day summit of world leaders in the French seaside town of Biarritz comes amid a worsening trade war between China and the US, and attempts by European governments to ease tensions between Washington and Tehran over Iran’s nuclear programme.
Mr Tusk said: “The EU was always open to co-operation when David Cameron wanted to avoid Brexit, when Theresa May wanted to avoid a no-deal Brexit, and we will also be ready now to hold serious talks with Prime Minister Johnson.
“One thing I will not co-operate on is no-deal. I still hope that Prime Minster Johnson will not like to go down in history as ‘Mr No Deal’.”
In a wide-ranging speech in France, Mr Tusk also said:
- Trade wars among G7 members will further erode trust between them
- If Donald Trump is using tariffs as a political tool it could be risky for whole world
- Summit will be a “difficult test of unity” after year where leaders found it hard to find common language
- EU stands by deal with Mercosur [South American trade bloc]
- But it is hard to imagine smooth ratification by member states if Brazil’s government lets the Amazon forest burn
- G7 leaders should make one more push to come together over Iran
- Internationally-brokered nuclear peace accord faces collapse after US pulled out and reimposed sanctions
- Under no condition can EU agree with Trump proposal to bring Russia back into G7
- Russia was excluded for annexing Crimea and backing anti-Kiev rebellion in eastern Ukraine
International issues such as climate change, inequality and security are likely to dominate the summit, attended by the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US.
But it will also be chance for the prime minister to talk Brexit and trade on the global stage.
He is expected to tell Mr Trump that the NHS will not be on the table in any future trade deal.
Speaking ahead of the summit, the prime minister said some people “question” the UK’s choice to leave the EU and fear it will cause the country to “retreat from the world”.
But he insisted those who “think Britain’s best days are behind us” are “gravely mistaken” – adding that the UK will “remain at the heart of the alliances that span the world”.
The event is Mr Johnson’s first international summit in the job and will bring him face-to-face with Mr Trump.
The US commander-in-chief arrived in Biarritz a day after imposing an extra 5% duty on $ 550bn in targeted Chinese goods in retaliation for a new round of tariffs by Beijing.
Mr Trump also repeated his threat to tax French wines in retaliation for a new French levy on digital services, which he says unfairly targets US companies.
Mr Tusk warned the EU would respond in kind if Washington attacked the digital tax.