Donald Tusk signalled that the gathering in Brussels was unlikely to agree that enough progress had been made so far for the negotiations to advance to the next stage.
His remarks were being seen last night of a rejection of Theresa May’s call for more “flexibility and leadership” from Brussels.
And the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier hinted at irritation with the Prime Minister’s stance by insisting: “Brexit is not a game.”
The double response from senior Eurocrats confirmed expectations in Downing Street that the talks are likely to remain stalled at least until the end of the year, raising the possibility of the negotiations collapsing and the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Mr Tusk yesterday said the EU was currently not preparing for failure in the talks but might have to start work on that scenario if no progress was made by the end of the year.
In a speech in Brussels, the EU Council President said: “We hear from London that the UK government is preparing for a ‘no deal’ scenario.
“I would like to say very clearly that the EU is not working on such a scenario.
“We are negotiating in good faith, and we still hope that the so-called ‘sufficient progress’ will be possible by December,” Mr Tusk said.
“However, if it turns out that the talks continue at a slow pace, and that sufficient progress hasn’t been reached, then – together with our UK friends – we will have to think about where we are heading.”
In response to the EU Council president’s speech, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “We have been making progress in the talks on issues like citizen’s rights and Northern Ireland and of course we look forward to that progress continuing.”
Mr Barnier yesterday spoke out yesterday when quizzed by a television news team about Mrs May’s suggestion that “the ball is in their court.”
Mrs May discussed progress in the Brexit negotiations at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Downing Street yesterday.
Cabinet ministers remained tight-lipped as they arrived in Downing Street for the meeting.
Foreign Secretary Johnson found himself left out in the cold briefly when the door to No 10 remained closed on his initial attempts to enter the building.
Mr Barnier spoke out following lunch with EU Exit Secretary David Davis yesterday. Officials described their meeting as “constructive.”
“Brexit is not a game – don’t forget that,” the EU diplomat said.