European Union leaders are preparing for the imminent break-up of their beloved global task force Nato, according to EU President Donald Tusk. 

“Despite our tireless efforts to keep the unity of the west, transatlantic relations are under immense pressure due to the policies of President Trump,” Mr Tusk told EU leaders at a dinner on Thursday night.

Thetimes.co.uk reports: He asked EU leaders to go beyond a scheduled discussion on how to deal with a looming trade war caused by unilateral American tariffs on steel and aluminium, to consider the potential breakdown of the post-war western alliance. “Unfortunately, the divisions go beyond trade,” he said. “It is my belief that while hoping for the best we must be ready to prepare our union for worst-case scenarios.”

EU leaders are increasingly alarmed that Mr Trump has plunged next month’s Nato summit into turmoil by questioning the alliance’s future and linking his anger at European trade surpluses to longstanding concerns about defence spending. After refusing to sign a G7 summit declaration, he directly connected the EU’s trade surplus with the US to Nato’s future.

EU leaders will agree to increase military spending and co-operation to reduce their dependency on American support for Nato. “Europe must take greater responsibility for its own security,” a draft communiqué seen by The Timesstated. “The union is therefore taking steps to bolster European defence, by enhancing defence investment, capability development and operational readiness.”

As Theresa May and other European leaders gathered in Brussels for talks on the future of the western military alliance and the G7, Mr Trump launched a fresh attack on the EU for running a $150 billion trade surplus with America.

“We love the countries of the European Union,” he told a Republican rally in North Dakota. “But the EU, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States, to attack our piggy bank, right? We can’t let that happen. Taking advantage of the United States is over.”

Many European governments share Mr Tusk’s concern that the president’s decisions, including trade protectionism, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change pact are part of a pattern.

“We are more and more concerned they are not just incidents. It starts to look like a very worrying pattern,” said a senior EU diplomat, who pointed to “an American doctrine in which there are no friends, only enemies” and with no “rules-based order”. “It is very dangerous,” the source said.

The EU is responding with tariffs on US products, including Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Levi jeans, but is divided over how to react to a threat from Mr Trump to extend the levies from metals to cars.

Germany, which is dependent on exports and car sales in America, is concerned that the EU is heading for a full-blown trade war with the US.

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said: “We will talk about whether we, the EU, enter into talks with the United States in order to prevent a spiral of trade barriers.”