The Brexit deal struck between Britain and the EU is “lose-lose” and about “damage control”, the president of the European Council has said.
Speaking in Brussels on Thursday morning after the late night release of the withdrawal agreement Donald Tusk said he did not share the “enthusiasm” of Theresa May for Brexit.
But Mr Tusk nevertheless endorsed the agreement, stating that it achieved the EU’s two main objectives: the “limitation of the damage caused by Brexit”, and securing “the vital interest and principles of the 28 member states and the European Union as a whole”.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, who gave a statement alongside him, also hit back at UK critics of the plan – branding it “fair and balanced”.
Mr Tusk told reporters: “I took good note of Prime Minister May’s statement yesterday.
“Of course I don’t share the prime minister’s enthusiasm about Brexit as such. Since the very beginning we have had no doubt that Brexit is a lose-lose situation and that our negotiations are only about damage control.”
The comments by the Council president are likely to be ammunition for those in the UK – on both the Remain and Leave sides – who say the deal struck by Mr May gives little benefit to the UK.
I don’t share the prime minister’s enthusiasm about Brexit as such
Donald Tusk, European Council president
He added: “As much as I am sad to see you leave I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible for both you and for us.”
Chief negotiator Mr Barnier defended the fundamentals of the plan. Speaking alongside Mr Tusk he added: “What we have agreed at negotiators level is fair and balanced, organises the withdrawal in an orderly fashion, ensures no hard border on the island of Ireland, and lays the ground for an ambitious new partnership.”
It comes after deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand privately told EU member states that the plan would allow the UK to “keep all control” with the UK died into Brussels regulations.
The deal, with polls suggest is likely to be unpopular with the public, is facing sustained criticism from all sides in Westminster. Labour this morning confirmed it would vote against the plan, with the opposition expected to be to be joined by MPs from the DUP, as well as both remainers and leavers from Theresa May’s own conservative party.