Nonetheless, leaders stated in their negotiating guidelines, approved within minutes at Saturday’s summit, that they would be prepared to deal with a situation in which talks collapse.
Tusk said Europeans needed “solid guarantees for citizens and their families, who will be affected by Brexit on both sides – this must be number-one priority for EU and the United Kingdom”.
President Tusk tweeted the outcome of their discussions, saying: “Guidelines adopted unanimously”.
French President Francois Hollande warned on Saturday that Britain must pay the price for Brexit as European Union leaders met to adopt guidelines for negotiations.
“The consequences would be serious if France turned away from the EU”, Hollande warned for his last summit ahead of next week’s vote in France.
European leaders have endorsed a joint negotiating position on Brexit, including the controversial Spanish veto over the application of any future U.K./EU trade deal to Gibraltar.
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Some three million citizens from the 27 nations live in Britain, while up to two million Britons live on the continent – all facing uncertainly on such issues as welfare and employment.
Addressing the German parliament, Mrs Merkel said: “Countries with a third country status – and that’s what Great Britain will be – can not and will not have the same or even more rights as a member of the European Union”.
Border controls between the north and south were eased as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 accord that brought peace to Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian conflict.
This puts the European Union on a collision course with No 10, as Mrs May has said she wants to negotiate a new trade deal at the same time.
Any cracks in Europe’s unity are expected to emerge when the sides must agree on future ties with Britain, with export powers like the Netherlands urging a soft touch.
Talks with Britain will begin shortly after its general elections on June 8.
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The document confirms the common line adopted by the European Union 27 remaining states and European Union institutions since British prime minister Theresa May sent her notification letter on 29 March.
The EU guidelines say that only when “sufficient progress” has been made on divorce issues can trade talks begin, with sources saying they hope to do that by the end of the year.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday warned Britain not to hold any “illusions” about what Brexit means for its future, saying that it “cannot and will not have the same rights as a member of the European Union”.
The EU has estimated the bill at £51bn due to the EU exit rules although, British politicians has said clearly the government will not pay that amount.
“Unity in action”, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker declared on Saturday as he announced the 27 EU governments adopted the negotiating strategy.
The negotiations must be completed by the deadline March 29 2019.
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“Over the past weeks we have repeatedly heard from our British friends, also during my visit in London, that they are ready to agree on this issue quickly but I would like to state very clearly that we need real guarantees for our people to live, work and study in the United Kingdom and the same goes for the Brits”, Mr Tusk said. “They will be tough and, at times, even confrontational”. “A Brexit for free is not possible”, Michel said.