Tuesday 16 January 2018

Brexit row: Juncker tells audience, 'I'll speak French because English is losing its importance'

Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker

Jon Watts

JEAN Claude Juncker has taken a swipe at London by stating that "English is losing importance" amid an ongoing row with Theresa May.

The EU Commission President made the comments as he prepared to give a speech, which he said would be better given in French instead.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes Head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to Downing Street. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes Head of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker to Downing Street. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Brexit talks could become 'impossible' after May attack, Tusk warns

It is the latest blow in an intensifying war of words between the EU and the UK, with Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon saying on Friday morning that Brexit talks would be easier if Commission officials kept their views to themselves.

The row first burst into the open when Theresa May sensationally accused EU officials and politicians of trying to swing the UK election, after details of a private meeting she had with Mr Juncker were leaked to the German press.

Discussing the furore, Mr Fallon said: “It would certainly be easier if Commission officials kept their views to themselves and not further complicate what is already going to be a tough negotiation."

Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker at last week’s meeting. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire
Theresa May and Jean-Claude Juncker at last week’s meeting. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Ms May said on Wednesday that figures in the EU tried to influence the result of Britain’s election by leaking the content of discussions to the media, including claims that Mr Juncker believed Ms May to be “deluding herself” over Brexit.

She said the leaks to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper were malicious, after the resulting stories gave her British political rivals ammunition in the on-going election campaign.

The paper claimed Mr Juncker had dismissed her plan to reach a deal on citizens’ rights by June as failing to appreciate the complexity of the matter – he reportedly took out copies of the EU’s Canada trade deal and Croatia’s EU entry deal to demonstrate how difficult a deal would be.

Afterwards, he is said to have called German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to tell her that Ms May lives “in another galaxy” and is “deluding herself” over Brexit.

The Prime Minister was said to be furious at the leaks, but her unexpectedly ferocious intervention on Wednesday saw her accused of trying to pick a fight with foreign leaders to boost her election campaign and even acting like Donald Trump.

On Thursday European Council President Donald Tusk made an attempt to lower tensions by calling for all parties to act with "respect".

He said "Brexit talks [are] difficult enough. If emotions get out of hand, they'll become impossible. Discretion, moderation and mutual respect needed.

"At stake are the daily lives and interests of millions of people on both sides of the Channel."

Independent News Service

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