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FILE PHOTO: President of the European Council Donald Tusk speaks during a press conference at Government buildings in Dublin, Ireland, December 1, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The next phase of talks on Brexit will be the real test of European Union unity and success can only come if the 27 remaining EU countries stick together, the chairman of EU leader Donald Tusk said on Thursday.

Tusk spoke before a meeting of EU leaders on Friday that is to give the go-ahead to start negotiations on a transition period and a future trade deal with Britain after it leaves the EU in March 2019.

"Only when we are united can we successfully perform even the most difficult tasks, like with European defence for example or with Brexit."

"I have no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of Brexit talks," Tusk told reporters.

He said divisions among EU countries were very visible on the future shape of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and on migration.

"When it comes to EMU the divide is, I'm sorry for the geographical simplification, between north and south. When it comes to migration it is between east and west. These divisions are accompanied by emotions which make it hard to find even common language and rational arguments."

(Reporting By Jan Strupczewski and Philip Blenkinsop)

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Reuters