The president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker has said he would be happy to welcome Britain back into the EU even after the UK leaves the bloc.

Mr Juncker described Brexit as a a "catastrophe" and a "lose-lose situation" for both Britain and the EU.

Speaking at the European Parliament in Strasbourg Mr Juncker said he was reluctant to see the UK go and left the door open for Britain to return after 29 March 2019 under Article 49 of the Lisbon Treaty.

His comments come the day after European Council president Donald Tusk said on Tuesday he was open to a "change of heart" from the UK.

Addressing Mr Tusk's comments, Mr Juncker said: "Mr Tusk said that our hand remains outstretched.

"The British people, the British Government, may wish to find a different way out of the Brexit situation and we are very much willing to deal with them.

"We are not throwing the British out, we would like the British to stay, and if they so wish, they should be allowed to do so.

"In London, there was a rather irritated response to this proposal (to stay in the EU), but note that even if the British leave according to Article 50 then Article 49 would allow them to accede again and I would be happy to facilitate that."

Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk's overtures came as a commission paper suggested the EU is toughening its stance on the transition period after Brexit.

The Brexit Bill was set to clear its final stages in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister has already suffered one defeat on the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill at the hands of MPs but faces even tougher battles when the legislation enters the Lords