EU president Donald Tusk says Brexit can be stopped: ‘We cannot give into fatalism’

The president of the European Council has warned opponents of BREXIT not to “give in to fatalism” and accept Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Speaking in the European Parliament on Tuesday Donald Tusk said Europe and Britain needed “dreams and dreamers” to keep the idea of a united Europe alive and the UK in the EU.

“During the European Council one of the leaders warned us not to be dreamers and that we shouldn’t think that Brexit can be reversed,” Mr Tusk told MEPs in Strasbourg.

“I didn’t respond at the time. But today in front of you I would like to say at this rather difficult moment in our history, that we need the dreamers and dreams. We cannot give into fatalism. At least, I will not stop dreaming about a better and united Europe.”

Mr Tusk says he accepts the result of the EU referendum and that the decision on whether to leave is for the British people; but he has made no secret of the fact he would rather see the UK stay in the bloc.

EU president Donald Tusk says Brexit can be stopped: 'We cannot give into fatalism'

EU leaders last Wednesday agreed to give Britain a long extension of Brexit until 31 October, after Theresa May requested a longer deadline to pass her deal. Mr Tusk defended the length of the extension, which he pushed for – in part because it would give time the UK to “rethink Brexit”.

“In my view it has a few advantages. Only a long extension ensures that all options remain on the table, such as ratification of the current withdrawal agreement, or extra time to rethink Brexit, if that were the risk of the British people,” he said.

“Second, it allows the EU to focus on other priorities that are at least as important, such as trade with the US or the new EU leadership.

“I know that some have expressed fear that the UK might want to disrupt the EU’s functioning during this time. But the EU did not give in to such scaremongering… in fact, since the very beginning of the Brexit process the UK has been a constructive and responsible EU member state. So we have no reason to believe that this should change.

Opposing protesters flock to parliament on would be date of Brexit

1/30Pro-Brexit leave the European Union supporters attend a rally in Parliament Square after the final leg of the “March to Leave” in London
The protest march which started on March 16 in Sunderland, north east England, finished on what was the original date for Brexit to happen before the recent extension
8/30A Brexit supporter sips a can of Stella in protests outside of the Houses
9/30Dedicated anti-Brexit campaigner Steve Bray and likewise pro-Brexit campaigner Joseph Afrane go head to head near the Houses of Parliament
10/30A pro-Brexit marching band in Parliament Square
11/30Remain supporters wave EU flags from a bus in Parliament Square
13/30A Brexit supporter protests outside parliament
14/30A Brexit supporter protests outside of the Houses of ParliamentGetty
15/30Brexit supporters protest outside of the Houses of Parliament
17/30The March to Leave nears the Houses of Parliament
18/30A Brexit protester holds a sign outside parliamentEPA
19/30Brexit supporters carry the coffin of democracy
21/30Brexit supporters take part in the March to Leave protest in London
22/30Brexit supporters protest outside parliamentAFP/Getty
23/30A Brexit supporter holds a sign outside the Houses of Parliament
24/30A man holds satirical paintings of politicians
25/30An pro-Brexit float on the March to Leave march in LondonReuters
26/30Far-right activist Tommy Robinson addresses protesters outside the Houses of Parliament

“Third, the flexible extension delays the possibly of a no-deal Brexit by six months. Thanks to this millions of people and businesses have gained at least some certainty in this unstable time.”

But Mr Tusk’s Commission counterpart Jean-Claude Juncker struck a less optimistic tone.

“If the UK has not ratified the withdrawal agreement by [31 October] then there will be a hard Brexit, which we would like to avoid. Of course the UK can request to revoke Article 50 – that is something that’s been made very clear. But that is not my working hypothesis, and it’s not my working hypothesis either that beyond the 31 October we will see another extension.”

Both leaders stressed their preference not to speak about Brexit for a few months. Mr Juncker told MEPs: ”We are on a Brexit break, we are focusing on the very many other issues for our union. With that in mind I want to be very brief.

“We have made sure that we do not need to discuss Brexit every other week and have given the United Kingdom the time and space to find a way out of the impasse.”