Donald Tusk attempted to reassure Theresa May as she faced her first EU Council meeting since the UK voted to leave the EU, describing the Brussels get-together as a "nest of doves".

"Some media described her first meeting in the European Council as entering the lion's den. It's not true. It's more like a nest of doves," the EU Council president told reporters today (20 October).

"She'll be absolutely safe with us. And I hope that she will also realise that the European Union is simply the best company in the world."

For her part, the British prime minister promised to work closely with the EU after Brexit.

"The UK is leaving the EU, but we will continue to play a full role until we leave and we will be a strong and dependable partner after we have left," she said.

May also attacked Russia over its involvement in the Syrian civil car. "We must show a robust and united European stance in the face of Russian aggression," the Conservative premier said.

EU chiefs, including Tusk, European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and European Parliament President Martin Schulz, have continually rejected Brexit negotiations before Article 50 is triggered.

But May will have the opportunity to raise the issue with her European counterparts at a working dinner this evening.

Tusk last week warned that the only alternative to a "hard Brexit" was "no Brexit", while Schulz warned the UK's split from the EU risks "humiliation" for both parties.

The UK government has indicated they will prioritise immigration curbs over full access to the EU's Single Market. But the EU chiefs are not budging over free movement of rules, with a rejection of "Single Market a la carte".

May's administration is currently facing a case in England's High Court over whether the ministers have the authority to trigger Article 50 without a parliamentary vote.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer, meanwhile, has demanded David Davis answer 170 Brexit-related questions.

A poll from Ipsos MORI, of more than 1,000 people between 14 and 17 October, found 45% of UK voters wanted May to prioritise single-market access, while 39% of respondents said immigration was the top issue.