European Council President Donald Tusk has raised the prospect that Britain might ultimately not leave the European Union because it would discover that any form of divorce from the EU will mean a damaging "hard Brexit".
The former Polish premier, who will oversee negotiations between London and Brussels, stressed that such a reversal of the result of June's referendum was highly improbable.
But he said on Thursday that Britain had little chance of securing a "soft Brexit" -- keeping most benefits of EU membership without the costs.
"It is useless to speculate about 'soft Brexit'," he said in a speech at the European Policy Centre in Brussels.
"These would be purely theoretical speculations. In my opinion, the only real alternative to a 'hard Brexit' is 'no Brexit'. Even if today hardly anyone believes in such a possibility."