WATCH Donald Tusk tells Britain: We miss you already
Donald Tusk told Britain "we miss you already" as he laid bare his sadness at the country's exit from the European Union.
Speaking just minutes after formally receiving Theresa May's letter triggering Article 50, the emotional European Council president said he would “not pretend I am happy today”.
He said the coming process would be about “damage control”, but argued one positive from Brexit was that the remaining 27 EU member states had been left “more determined and more united than before”.
British ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow today delivered the Article 50 letter to Mr Tusk, setting the ball rolling on the two-year negotiating period before the UK finally leaves the bloc.
In a press conference, Mr Tusk said: “There is no reason to pretend that this is a happy day neither in Brussels nor in London.
“After all, most Europeans including almost half the British voters wish we would stay together not drift apart… We already miss you."
He added: “But paradoxically there is also something positive in Brexit. Brexit has made us - the community of 27 - more determined and more united before. I am fully confident of this.”
And taking a darker tone, he said: “There is nothing to win in this process and I’m talking about both sides. In essence this is about damage control.”
Mr Tusk highlighted the “strong mandate to protect the interests of the 27” and said his mission was to “minimise the costs for the EU citizens, businesses and member states”.
A statement from the European Council said: "We regret that the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, but we are ready for the process that we now will have to follow...
"We will approach these talks constructively and strive to find an agreement. In the future, we hope to have the United Kingdom as a close partner."
In her letter to Mr Tusk, Mrs May wrote: “The task before us is momentous but it should not be beyond us.
“After all, the institutions and the leaders of the European Union have succeeded in bringing together a continent blighted by war into a union of peaceful nations, and supported the transition of dictatorships to democracy.
“Together, I know we are capable of reaching an agreement about the UK’s rights and obligations as a departing member state, while establishing a deep and special partnership that contributes towards the prosperity, security and global power of our continent.”