Jean-Claude Juncker: 'English is losing importance'

Andrew Cummings
May 8, 2017

The European Commission has hit back at British Prime Minister Theresa May's claims that Brussels was trying to interfere in the United Kingdom general election.

Speaking in front of her Downing Street office after visiting Queen Elizabeth to mark the dissolution of Parliament, the formal start of the election campaign, May said there were some in Brussels who did not want to see Brexit talks succeed.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has drawn laughs at a conference by announcing that he'd speak in French because "slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe".

Britons today voted in local and mayoral polls whose outcome could weigh on the crucial general election in June, as Prime Minister Theresa May looks for a show of strength to boost her Brexit position.

"No one should be confronted with a mountain of red tape", Barnier said, two days after the European Commission circulated a draft of negotiating directives he will follow in Brexit talks that are expected to begin in June.

In an attempt to avoid a tit-for-tat response, European Council President Donald Tusk called on both parties to treat one another with "respect" on Thursday (4 May). People get excited when we have elections.

A European Commission spokeswoman said: "We are not naive, we know that there is an election taking place". This election in the United Kingdom is mainly about Brexit, but we, here, in Brussels, we are rather busy with our policy work. We have enough on our plate.

Brexit talks would be easier if European Commission officials "kept their views to themselves", Sir Michael Fallon has said amid claims that the EU is seeking to bully British voters.

Details of the diplomatic dinner were leaked to the German press, describing how Juncker and Prime Minister Theresa May "clashed" over a number issues, with the Eurocrat quoted as saying he was "10 times more skeptical than I was before" about the prospects for negotiations. Some might say if they get a good deal then my country would want to get out of the European Union as well, and other people just want to punish the UK.

Meanwhile, the Spanish press said May had "decided to throw down the glove", accusing Brussels of interference in the general election.

Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said Britain would be "seriously mistaken" if it thought it could leave the European Union without paying a divorce bill.

"If we don't get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society with real opportunity for all".

The former business tycoon in January 2016 said Brussels was a "hellhole" due to the city's high Muslim immigrant population.

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