Brexit may still not happen, EU chief suggests

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FILE. Britain is looking more likely than ever to crash out of the European Union without a deal, according to the UK's international trade secretary Liam Fox.

(CNN) — Britain's departure from the European Union may still not happen, one of the EU's top officials has suggested.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, said the onus was on London to ensure the two sides came to a deal before Britain's scheduled departure from the EU in May 2019.

Tusk, updating the European Parliament on Tuesday after a summit of European leaders last week, said it was up to Britain whether there was a "good deal, no deal, or no Brexit" at all.

Tusk warned that the EU would suffer if the talks ended in failure. "Ahead of us is still the toughest stress test. If we fail it, the negotiations will end in our defeat," he told members of the European Parliament.

"We must keep our unity regardless of the direction of the talks. The EU will be able to rise to every scenario as long as we are not divided.

"It is in fact up to London how this will end: With a good deal, no deal or no Brexit. But in each of these scenarios we will protect our common interest only by being together."

Read: Angela Merkel won't stop Britain falling off a Brexit cliff edge

Tusk has expressed a hope in the past that the UK would not leave the EU. But there is no suggestion he sees it as a serious possibility.

There is no precedent for revoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal mechanism for leaving the EU triggered by the British government in April.

In any case, British Prime Minister Theresa May has vowed to deliver Brexit, and the main UK opposition Labour party does not favor reversing the Brexit referendum.

Up to this point, the Brexit talks have focused on three separate issues, including Britain's financial settlement upon departure from the bloc, the rights of EU citizens in the UK and Britons residing in fellow EU states, and the Northern Irish border.

The EU has insisted that it will only move on to discussion surrounding a future relationship with Britain after "sufficient progress" has been made on these three areas.

At last week's summit, the 27 EU states said more work was needed on the three topics before any movement could be made on discussing a future trade deal.

Read: Brexit will force Britain to spend more time dealing with Europe

May struck a more optimistic note on Monday saying she had a "degree of confidence" in ensuring talks would take place by December.

But after five rounds of talks between the two negotiating parties, talks remain locked in phase one, though talks amongst the 27 EU states surrounding a possible transitional deal are set to go ahead after an agreement was reached last Friday.

 

'Hostile agenda'

 

Meanwhile, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker insisted there was no appetite for a "no-deal" scenario and ridiculed suggestions that Brussels had formed a "hostile agenda."

"The Commission is not negotiating in a hostile mood," he told MEPs in Strasbourg.

"We want a deal. Those who don't want a deal - the no-dealers -- they had no friends in the Commission."

His comments come a day after he denied leaking an account of his recent dinner with May which was published in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine.

Read: A fudged Brexit is May's best hope

The account claimed that May had appeared "anxious, despondent and disheartened," during the dinner, while also claiming she was "marked by the struggle with her own party."

But in an interview with the BBC, Juncker rejected accusations that he had leaked details of the meeting to the media.

"No, never. I am really surprised - if not shocked - about what has been written in the German press," he said

"And of course repeated by the British press. Nothing is true in all of this.

"I had an excellent working dinner with Theresa May. She was in good shape, she was not tired, she was fighting, as is her duty, so everything for me was OK."