Tusk: Brexit process may be even more exciting after change of PM

Brexit will become more “exciting” than before with a change of British prime minister, European Council president Donald Tusk has claimed.

Mr Tusk said the remaining 27 member states of the European Union were looking forward to welcoming the next UK premier, but he reiterated his warning that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be renegotiated.

In a press conference at the end of a two-day European Council summit in Brussels, Mr Tusk told reporters: “We are waiting for the new British prime minister and we have to be very precise and also patient.

“It’s waiting for the decisions or maybe new proposals, but our position remains as I informed just five minutes ago.

“Maybe the process of Brexit will be even more exciting than before because of some personnel decisions in London, but nothing has changed when it comes to our position.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker added: “We repeated unanimously that there will be no renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

The frontrunner in the race to replace Theresa May, Boris Johnson, has claimed it is “perfectly realistic” to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement to allow Britain to leave the European Union in October – a deadline he thinks is “eminently feasible”.

Boris Johnson v Jeremy Hunt: experience in politics
Boris Johnson v Jeremy Hunt: experience in politics

His rival Jeremy Hunt believes there is a deal to be done with Brussels if the right team is sent to negotiate it.

He has said he would be prepared to delay Brexit if an agreement was in reach, but would walk away if there was no prospect of reaching a deal by October 31.

Mrs May left the summit on Friday morning following a bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the EU 27 held short Brexit talks after her departure.

The leaders had hoped to allocate the EU’s top jobs at the summit but they failed to find a majority for any candidate.

Instead, they will meet for a special summit on June 30.

The main political groupings in the Parliament have nominated candidates, including German MEP Manfred Weber, for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP), and former Dutch foreign minister Frans Timmermans, for the Party of European Socialists (PES).

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The liberal group has put forward a “Spitzen Team” made up of figures including European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt and Danish EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.

However, French President Emmanuel Macron is thought to favour appointing the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to the role of European Commission president, limiting Germany’s power in the bloc which would grow if Mr Weber became commission president.

The leaders talked about the appointments until 1.45am local time (12.45am BST) on Friday, before adjourning until the end of the month.

On Thursday evening, they ate a distinctly British supper: dining on a starter of green asparagus with smoked salmon, followed by a main course of roast beef with rocket and potato cake, and for pudding they had strawberries with lime.

Mrs May – who had expected the summit to be her last as prime minister – said as she arrived that she would play a “constructive role” in the discussions.