Donald Tusk mixes tragedy and comedy as Brexit process begins
The EU Council chief joked on Twitter but gave a downbeat press conference
Britain's ambassador to the EU has handed over the letter that starts the clock ticking on Brexit.
Sir Tim Barrow took possession of the letter this morning but delivered it to EU Council chief Donald Tusk just before 12.30 in a stage managed moment. Tusk tweeted a gag suggesting he'd grown a little tired of waiting for the letter. He joked that like a pregnancy the UK had finally delivered after nine months.
However he struck a more sombre tone at the press conference that followed. Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland before he took over as President of the European Council in 2014, told the gathered media that his message for the UK was: "We already miss you" before leaving the stage without taking any questions. Commentators on social media largely praised Tusk for his dignified response.
Just before the six-page Brexit letter was delivered Tusk insisted that there was no winners from the process of the UK leaving the EU and that the task before negotiators on both sides amounted to 'damage control'. He is due to publish the EU's negotiating guidelines on Friday with members states expected to give his approach the green light next month allowing discussions between Brussels and London to begin. With the Brexit process now in train Britain has exactly two years to come to an agreement about it's future relationship with the EU or risk being drummed out of the organisation it joined in 1973 and being forced to pay trade tariffs at World Trade Organisation rates.
As the letter was handed over in Brussels Theresa May told MPs in the Commons that she was aware there would be consequences of leaving and that many people who voted to remain would be sad however she added: "This is an historic moment from which there can be no turning back. Britain is leaving the European Union. We are going to make our own decisions and our own laws. We are going to take control of the things that matter most to us. And we are going to take this opportunity to build a stronger fairer, Britain - a country that our children and grandchildren are proud to call home."