Sir Michael Fallon: Brexit talks will go much more smoothly if EU officials only 'kept their views to themselves'

The Defence Secretary refused to accept criticism of Theresa May's claim that the EU tried to influence Britain's election

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Sir Michael Fallon has said Brexit talks will go much more smoothly if European Commission officials only “kept their views to themselves”.

The Defence Secretary fired the latest shot in the war of words between Brussels and London following an attempt by European Council President Donald Tusk to lower tensions by calling for “moderation and respect”.

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 European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker were leaked to the German press.

Discussing the furore, Sir Michael 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.

“It’s clear from Theresa May’s reaction that she is prepared, whatever the Commission officials are doing in Brussels, the bureaucrats, she is prepared to stand up for Britain’s vital national interests in these very complicated talks.”

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

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

Mr Tusk warned on Thursday that talks would become “impossible” if emotions got out of hand between the UK and EU and called for “mutual respect” between the negotiating parties.

But Sir Michael did not accept Mr Tusk had been making criticism of Ms May, but instead claimed the Council President’s words should be directed at only at EU “bureaucrats”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: “I think any criticism of Commission officials is fair, that leaking should not have occurred, it was a very one-sided account of a dinner meeting.”

Sir Michael added: “I think Theresa May was right to point out to everybody that these negotiations are going to be not just difficult but extremely tough and to rightly point out how they are going to be dealt with.”