The EU Council boss gave an upbeat assessment of negotiations on the crunch issue of citizens’ rights, but said money and Ireland still remain crucial sticking points for the club.
He said that an agreement must be struck at the start of December “at the latest” or he will not have time to make the recommendation to member states that they vote to open trade talks.
Mr Tusk, widely seen as the most diplomatic of the instutition chiefs, also gave an unusually withering response to claims by David Davis that the EU must make the next move to unblock the divorce proceedings.
The EU Council boss was speaking after a bilateral meeting with Theresa May during which the pair discussed the state of the negotiations and what needs to be done to achieve the “sufficient progress” threshold in December.
The British PM attended a special Social Summit of EU leaders in the Swedish city of Gothenburg today, at which she pressed her case for trade talks to begin with top figures including Emmanuel Macron.
Mr Tusk said: “In October the EU27 started internal preparation on the second phase of negotiations, namely transition and the future relationship, and we will be ready to move onto the second phase already in December.
“But in order to do that we need to see more progress from the UK side. While good progress on citizens’ rights is being made we need to see much more progress on Ireland and on the financial settlement.
“In order to avoid any ambiguities about our work calendar, I made it very clear to prime minister May that this progress needs to happen at the beginning of December at the latest.
“If there’s no sufficient progress by then I will not be in a position to propose new guidelines on transition and the future relationship at the December council.”
And asked about Mr Davis’ claims today that Britain is the only party compromising in the talks, the usually diplomatic Mr Tusk cuttingly replied: “I really appreciate Mr Davis’ English sense of humour.”
In an interview with the BBC today, the Brexit secretary said that the UK had made “all the running” in the negotiations and urged EU leaders to make more compromises.
He insisted Britain had “been offering some creative compromises and not always got them back” and warned the European side that “nothing comes for nothing”.
Mr Davis said: “I want them to compromise, surprise surprise, nothing comes for nothing in this world. But so far, in this negotiation, we have made a lot of compromises. On the citizens’ rights front, we have made all the running.”
After the PM’s meetings with Mr Tusk and Mr Macron, a Downing Street spokesman said: “At the Gothenburg Social Summit, Prime Minister Theresa May held a bilateral meeting with European Council President Donald Tusk.
“In positive discussions, the two leaders spoke about the progress which had been made so far in the negotiations on citizens’ rights, Northern Ireland and the financial settlement.
“Prime Minister May and President Tusk agreed that there is more work to be done and discussed how to take further steps forward together in advance of the European Council in December.
“The Prime Minister also held a constructive bilateral meeting with the President of France, Emmanuel Macron. They discussed the progress which has been made so far. The two leaders looked forward to further progress being made ahead of the December Council.
“President Macron and the Prime Minister also discussed the strong bilateral relationship which exists between France and the UK and looked forward to building upon it further in coming months and years.”