EU's Tusk cautions "nothing to win" in upcoming Brexit talks
European Council President Donald Tusk on Wednesday cautioned that both Brussels and London have "nothing to win" in the forthcoming "difficult negotiations."
"There is nothing to win in this process, and I am talking about both sides. In essence, this is about damage control," he said at a press conference hard on the heels of receiving the Brexit letter from British ambassador to the European Union (EU), which triggered the two-year countdown to Britain's exit of the bloc after 44 years of membership.
Underlining that "most Europeans, including almost half the British voters wish that we would stay together, not drift apart," Tusk said, "there's no reason to pretend that this is a happy day, neither in Brussels, nor in London."
However, he insisted that "Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before."
He said he will unveil the EU's guidelines on Brexit talks on Friday and the goal is to minimize the costs for EU citizens, businesses and member states.
"We will do everything in our power -- and we have all the tools -- to achieve this goal. And what we should stress today is that, as for now, nothing has changed: until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, EU law will continue to apply to and within the UK," he said, adding he will convene a summit on April 29 to adopt the guidelines.
"What can I add? We already miss you," he said.
Coinciding with Tusk's statement to the press, the European Council issued a statement voicing its "regret" to the Britain's notification letter to leave the bloc.
"We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow," said the statement.
"For the European Union, the first step will now be the adoption of guidelines for negotiations by the European Council," it added, stating that these guidelines will set out the overall positions and principles in light of which the European Commission will negotiate with Britain.
"We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner," the statement read.
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday signed the Article 50 notification letter, nine months after Britain voted to quit the EU by a narrow margin in a June referendum.
By triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Britain and the EU are expected to have a two-year process in which the terms of exit will be negotiated. Unless both sides agree to extend the deadline for talks, Britain will leave on March 2019.
Article 50 refers to the formal procedure by which an EU member state notifies the European Council that it intends to leave the bloc.
Hours before May signed the notification letter, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon won a major victory Tuesday in her demand for a new Scottish independence referendum.
Her governing Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP), supported by Green Party members of the Scottish Parliament, backed Sturgeon's bill for an independence referendum to take place between autumn 2018 and spring 2019.
Sturgeon wants the people of Scotland to have a say on the destiny of their region before a final deal is agreed on the terms of Brexit between the British government and Brussels.
The SNP leader welcomed the vote at Holyrood of 69 to 59 in support of her bill. Scottish people held a first independence referendum in 2014, voting to remain as part of Britain.
May has not ruled out a second referendum for Scotland but has insisted this will not happen until the end of the Brexit negotiations.
This will put Sturgeon and the SNP on a collision course with Westminster.