Strasbourg - The European Union is open to Britain changing its mind over Brexit and staying in the bloc, European Council President Donald Tusk told EU lawmakers on Tuesday.
Tusk said that "if the UK government sticks to its decision to leave" the EU, "Brexit will become a reality with all its negative consequences" in March 2019.
Our hearts are still open to you
"Unless there’s a change of heart among our British friends," he said. "We, here on the continent, haven't had a change of heart - our hearts are still open to you."
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he hoped Tusk's message would be "heard clearly in London."
The comments come after growing debate in Britain about the possibility of a second referendum on Brexit.
Last week, former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who has been one of the strongest voices behind Brexit, caused a stir by suggesting he was close to backing calls for a second referendum.
Meanwhile, during the debate at the European Parliament, the leader of the largest political group warned London against taking "for granted" a transitional period after Brexit that has been outlined by EU leaders in December.
"If the conditions are not good enough, the European People's Party will not give its consent," said Manfred Weber, the leader of the group. "The cliff edge is far from being avoided."
EU rules during the transitional period
According to a draft of new EU negotiating directives seen by dpa, the bloc is pushing for tough EU oversight and strict British adherence to EU rules during the transitional period.
The draft calls for the free movement of EU citizens in Britain to apply until the end of the transition period instead of the date of Britain's withdrawal from the bloc, which had been agreed by EU and British negotiators in December.
The draft simply notes that date referred to in the EU-British joint report published in December "should consequently be defined as that of the end of the transitional period."
The bloc also wants to prohibit Britain from becoming "bound by international agreements entered into in its own capacity" in areas governed by EU law during the transitional period unless those agreements have been authorized by the EU.