Theresa May accuses EU of trying to influence UK election in astonishing attack

The Prime Minister made the claim outside Downing Street

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 03 May 2017 17:37
Theresa May accuses EU of trying to influence election result

Theresa May has accused the EU of trying to influence the result of Britain's general election by maliciously leaking the content of discussions to the media.

In an aggressive and unusual speech outside Downing Street the Prime Minister tore into some EU leaders and officials, and said Britain would not allow the "bureaucrats of Brussels run over us".

"Britain’s negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press, the European Commission’s negotiating stance has hardened," she said.

"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 8 June."

Ms May continued: "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."

The Prime Minister took no questions after her speech to clarify her comments.

The claim comes after an account of of a meeting between Ms May and Jean Claude Juncker in the German press that cast the Prime Minister's understanding of the Brexit process in an unfavourable light.

Ms May used the speech to contrast her approach to Brexit negotiations with that of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose leadership she said would see voters paying a "high price".

Mr Corbyn himself accused the Prime Minister of "playing party games with Brexit in the hope of winning advantage for the Tories".

“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," he said.

“But Brexit is too important to be used as a political game in this election.

“These are vital negotiations for every person in Britain and for the future of our country. But Theresa May is putting party interest ahead of the national interest.

“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."

Jeremy Corbyn accused the PM of playing political games over Brexit to gain a partisan advantage

The Prime Minister's attack, which appears to be mostly directed at Mr Juncker, is in sharp contrast to the conciliatory tone taken by the European Commission president today. He today praised the "tough" Ms May and spoke of his "deep respect" for the PM.

Ms May has claimed she “does not recall the account” of her disastrous dinner with the European Commission president in Downing Street last week, where he had reportedly suggested she was “delusional” about Brexit.

The PM's statement drew ire from other British politicians. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Ms May of seeking to "poison the atmosphere for partisan reasons" and described the attack as "deeply irresponsible".

"Having called an election for reasons of party not national interest, [the] PM now seems intent on fighting [the] campaign in the same way."

Ms May made the address outside Downing Street after visiting the Queen at Buckingham Palace to mark the dissolution of Parliament for the general election.

She also used the statement outside Number 10 to tell voters that Brexit would be the "overriding task" of the next government. Polls currently give the PM around a 20 point lead over Labour, which would give Ms May an increased majority in the House of Commons compared to the narrow one she currently enjoys.

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