Tusk suggests EU Brexit summit to avert 'catastrophe'

When European Union leaders meet this week in the Austrian Alps, they will discuss how to clear both the last hurdles to a divorce deal and to develop a plan for future ties, he said.

Tusk suggests EU Brexit summit to avert 'catastrophe'

European leaders may need to hold an extra summit in November to clinch a Brexit deal and avert "a catastrophe" when Britain leaves in March, EU President Donald Tusk warned Tuesday. "We will discuss how to organise the final phase of the Brexit talks, including the possibility of calling another European Council in November," he said, in a letter inviting the 28 leaders to the informal summit.

The leaders who make up Tusk's European Council had been aiming to strike a Brexit deal at a scheduled October summit, but now seem to be on course to hold another last-ditch get-together in November.

This would still give the British, European and member state parliaments enough time to debate and ratify the terms before the end of March, when Britain would otherwise crash out without a plan.

"Let me recall that limiting the damage caused by Brexit is our shared interest. Unfortunately, a no deal scenario is still quite possible. But if we all act responsibly, we can avoid a catastrophe," Tusk wrote.

Concerned about safeguarding the Irish peace deal, he also stressed the need to find ways to ensure "there will be no hard border in the future" between Ireland and British Northern Ireland.

EU officials and many British experts are worried that a no-deal Brexit would damage economic and financial ties between the world's biggest trading bloc and one of the world's largest economies.

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz of Austria -- which currently holds the bloc's six-month rotating presidency -- will open the two-day summit on Wednesday evening in Salzburg. 

He will host a dinner where British Prime Minister Theresa May briefs her EU counterparts about the state of talks between her negotiator Dominic Raab and Europe's Brexit pointman Michel Barnier.

Tusk said the 27 other leaders would meet on Thursday without May to discuss a statement of intent on future relations with Britain, which is to be announced along with the Brexit divorce deal.

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