The President of the European Parliament today denied claims by Theresa May that Brussels tried to meddle in the election with damaging leaks about Brexit.
Antonio Tajani insisted there was no attempt to ‘influence’ the result of June 8’s election.
A spokesman for EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker dismissed the row today, insisting Brussels was not ‘naive’ about elections and was ‘too busy’ to be interfering.
Mrs May made the allegations in a blistering Downing Street speech last night after days of aggressive leaks in the European press about her Brexit negotiations.
The PM hosted a delegation from the European Commission at a dinner last week but leaks from Brussels suggested she was out of her depth.
Speaking at a museum opening in Brussels today Mr Tajani said: ‘No one is trying to influence the outcome the election campaign in the United Kingdom.’
The President of the European Parliament Antonio Tajani (pictured with the Prime Minister on April 20) today denied claims by Theresa May that Brussels tried to meddle in the election with damaging leaks about Brexit After seeing the Queen, Theresa May last night delivered an extraordinary assessment of the ‘threats and misrepresentation’ coming out of Brussels (pictured)
Mr Tajani added: ‘It is better to have an interlocutor who is not constantly looking for votes because they have had the election, in order to work towards a good solution…
‘If you have an election campaign, the rhetoric gets sharper and more robust. I don’t think there is any question of influencing the campaign.’
Earlier, Mr Juncker’s spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, brushed off Mrs May’s comments.
She told reporters in Brussels: ‘We are not naive, we know that there is an election taking place in the United Kingdom. People get excited whenever we have elections.
‘This election in the United Kingdom is mainly about Brexit. But we here in Brussels, we are very busy, rather busy, with our policy work.
‘We have too much to do on our plate. So, in a nutshell, we are very busy. And we will not Brexitise our work.
‘To put it in the words of an EU diplomat, the 30-minute slot that we are going to devote to Brexit per week, for this week it’s up.’
Pressed on whether Mrs May was right to claim that EU figures were using ‘threats’ to influence the election, Mr Schinas said: ‘I said that we are not naive and we know that it is time that elections happen.
‘People get excited over elections, it’s normal, so things are said.
‘We don’t Brexitise our very important policy work. We are too busy now to engage in these comments on who said this or that.’
In her extraordinary speech last night, Mrs May appealed for the backing of voters so she can ‘fight for Britain’ despite the interference, the premier said: ‘Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press. The European Commission’s negotiating stance has hardened.
‘Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials.
‘All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the General Election that will take place on June 8.’
In a reference to poisonous briefing coming out of the top ranks of the EU, Mrs May said she believed there were efforts to skew the election Poisonous briefing followed the visit to No10 by Jean-Claude Juncker (left) and Michel Barnier last week. They are pictured in Brussels today
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has insisted he ‘deeply respects’ Mrs May as a ‘tough lady’ in an apparent attempt to cool the growing row between Brussels and London.
The extraordinary speech on the steps of Downing Street came after Mrs May went to see the Queen following the dissolution of parliament.
It was warmly welcomed by Brexiteers – but drew howls of anguish from pro-EU politicians such as SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and the Jeremy Corbyn.
German chacellor Angela Merkel
Miss Sturgeon accused Mrs May or trying to ‘poison the well’ ahead of the Brexit talks, while the Labour leader said she was playing ‘party games’ with the issues.
The premier lashed out witheringly at the ‘coalition of chaos’ that was being offered by Mr Corbyn.
But she saved her most vicious language for senior EU figures, after a brutal spat threatened to kill off the Brexit negotiations before they even began.
Relations have plunged to new lows after a detailed account emerged of a Downing Street dinner with EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and chief negotiator Michel Barnier last week.
The briefing, thought to have come from Mr Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr, accused Mrs May of being clueless and put the chances of talks falling apart at 50-50.
Mr Barnier unveiled a hard-line stance for the talks today, warning that Britain will face ‘explosive’ consequences if it does not pay a Brexit divorce bill that has been doubled to around £90billion.
Mr Juncker and Mr Selmayr appeared to be trying to take some of the heat out of the row tonight with more conciliatory remarks praising Mrs May’s efforts to navigate the EU divorce.
But the PM, who vowed yesterday to be a ‘bloody difficult woman’ in the looming talks, said the public were seeing quite how difficult the Brussels club would be over the coming years.
‘The events of the last few days have shown that whatever our wishes and however reasonable the positions of Europe’s other leaders, there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed, who do not want Britain to prosper.’
Politicians officially ceased being MPs at midnight and are now candidates once again, as the country prepares to elect a new House of Commons.
However, the PM – and her ministers – remain in post to run the government during the period.
Mrs May has described the ballot as the ‘most important’ in her lifetime, and a strong Tory majority is essential to secure the best possible Brexit deal.
She warned today that people’s livelihoods are on the line if the talks with the EU are not conducted effectively.
‘If we don’t get the negotiation right, your economic security and prosperity will be put at risk and the opportunities you seek for your families will simply not happen,’ she said.
‘If we do not stand up and get this negotiation right we risk the secure and well-paid jobs we want for our children and our children’s children too.
‘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 choice the country faces now is very simple. Because there are only two people who can possibly be Prime Minister after June 8 to negotiate Brexit.
‘It is a choice between me – and Jeremy Corbyn.’
Mr Corbyn said the PM was using Brexit for a ‘political game’.
‘Theresa May is playing party games with Brexit in the hope of winning advantage for the Tories in the General Election,’ he said.
‘By winding up the public confrontation with Brussels, the Prime Minister wants to wrap the Conservative party in the Union Jack and distract attention from her government’s economic failure and rundown of our public services.
‘The Prime Minister is right that there are those in Brussels who don’t want a deal. But that is also true of leading figures in the Tory party, who want to use Brexit to turn Britain into a low wage tax haven.
‘The Prime Minister says that no deal would lead to a different economic model for Britain.
‘In plain terms, that means wiping out employment rights and consumer protections and giving still more tax breaks to the rich and big corporations.
Miss Sturgeon, who has been looking to exploit Brexit to secure Scottish independence and tear the UK apart, said Mrs May was ‘deliberately seeking to poison the well will make the negotiating task ahead even harder’.
‘This is an irresponsible, gratuitous attack on our European neighbours, which is aimed at diverting attention from the Tories’ dismal record on health, the economy, austerity and welfare by painting the EU as a bogeyman,’ she said.
The PM, pictured walking back into No10 after her speech, appealed for the backing of voters so she can ‘fight for Britain’ Miss Sturgeon, who has been looking to exploit Brexit to secure Scottish independence and tear the UK apart, said Mrs May was ‘deliberately seeking to poison the well will make the negotiating task ahead even harder’
‘Insulting our neighbours simply makes the Brexit mountain much harder to climb, but unfortunately it is par for the course from Theresa May.’
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry described Mrs May as a ‘hybrid of Nixon and Cersei Lannister’ – the latter being a reference to the notorious Game of Thrones character.
Mr Juncker told a press conference today that he was ‘sorry’ about the leaks from the Downing Street dinner.
And his chief of staff, Mr Selmayr, attempted to cool the issue this evening by hailing Mrs May as an ‘impressive woman and a very impressive negotiator’.
‘That’s the way we have come to know her, and I don’t think that’s going to change,’ he said.
‘We need a very strong negotiator who unites the whole nation behind her and then in a very strong and tough way leads the negotiations.’
Mr Selmayr admitted that the leaks of last week’s dinner had created ‘a lot of havoc’, but insisted that the EU side were treating the negotiations ‘professionally’.
‘Certainly there is much ado about this, but that doesn’t change anything in principle for the President of the Commission, the EU and Michel Barnier,’ he said.
‘We will be going about this very professionally.’
He added: ‘Brexit will never become a success, of course, because it is a sad and sorry event.
‘But as I have set out, it can be managed in a professional and pragmatic way.’
Mr Selmayr suggested Mr Juncker will be spending only about ‘half an hour a week’ on the Brexit.
Speaking from Brussels, Mr Juncker added: ‘I deeply respect the British Prime Minister, I like her as a person.
‘I have noted that she is a tough lady, so this is not for the future, this is the real-time description.’
Polls suggest the Conservatives are on track for a huge victory on June 8.
New research by Panelbase today shows the Tories 17 per cent ahead of Labour, which would translate to a majority of more than 100.
Meanwhile, a Cantar poll gave Mrs May a massive 24 point lead.
Even previously safe Labour seats are thought to be vulnerable to a collapse in the Ukip vote and Tory surge.
But the country is in for an attritional struggle as Mrs May relentlessly hammers home her core message.
In a classic moment of British pomp and ceremony, the Prime Minister made the journey earlier today from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace The Queen arrived at the Palace at around 14.45 (pictured) – just a quarter of an hour before the PM pulled up in her car
The stakes on the election were underlined today as the EU set out a tough line for the looming negotiations.
Mr Barnier warned thatBrexit will be be painful as he insisted the UK will have to abide by the bloc’s terms.
In a clear jibe at Mrs May, he cautioned that ‘some have created the illusion’ that the process could be quick and painless.
The PM was greeted by an equerry as she arrived at Buckingham Palace after the short drive from No10 today Mrs May spent around 30 minutes inside the palace before heading back for her blistering speech outside No10 Mrs May’s official Jaguar made the short trip from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace and back this afternoon
He bluntly stated that was ‘simply not telling the truth’ and there would be ‘consequences’ – warning that Britain will be forced to ‘settle’ an exit bill that could run to more than £90billion.
He also insisted the European Court of Justice would settle disputes over the relationship in future.
At a press conference in the Belgian capital, Mr Barnier said: ‘Some have created the illusion that Brexit will have no material impact on our lives or that negotiations can be concluded quickly and easily.
‘That is not the case.’
He said there had to be a ‘legal’ process that covered all the technical points of the separation. That had to be settled before a future trade deal could be considered.
The PM’s car went through the famous gates of Buckingham Palace before she went inside to meet the monarch The latest polls suggest the Conservatives are on track for a huge victory on June 8 Although parliament only officially dissolved at midnight, in reality the campaign is well under way – with the Tories unveiling this poster today Brutal: Martin Selmayr