London (AFP) – British ministers blasted the European Commission on Friday, accusing EU officials of trying to “bully” the UK ahead of two years of gruelling Brexit negotiations.Rallying around Prime Minister Theresa May, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon criticised Brussels for what he described as “one-side leaking”.
He also told BBC radio that Brexit talks would “certainly be easier if commission officials kept their views to themselves”.
Fallon’s remarks come just a few hours after Brexit minister David Davis said Brussels was “trying to bully the British people” by suggesting it could be hit with a 100 billion euros (Â£85 billion, $110 billion) exit bill.
“Clearly what was happening was the commission was trying to bully the British people – and the British people will not be bullied, and the Government will not allow them to be bullied,” he told the BBC.
May accused some EU officials on Wednesday of trying to interfere with the upcoming parliamentary election.
She said the hardening of the European Commission’s stance was “deliberately timed to affect the result” of the snap June 8 general election she called seeking to shore up her mandate ahead of Brexit negotiations.
The prime minister’s scathing attack followed reports of a disastrous dinner with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Barnier.
German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said Juncker had left the April 26 dinner at Downing Street “10 times more sceptical” about the prospect of a Brexit deal and told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that May was in a “different galaxy”.
May’s accusations were swiftly rejected by Juncker and the head of the European parliament Antonio Tajani and were seen in Brussels as election campaign rhetoric as Britain held local elections on Thursday.
But EU president Donald Tusk cautioned on Thursday against letting “emotions get out of hand”.
“These negotiations are difficult enough as they are. If we start arguing before they even begin they will become impossible,” he said.