Standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street, May 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 8 June,” May said in comments following a brief meeting with the Queen to mark the dissolution of parliament ahead of the election.
She added: “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.”
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May has been battling reports of a falling out with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, who she hosted at a dinner last week. Following the meeting, hostile briefings against May appeared in the European press, including a claim that she is "deluded" when it comes to the UK's negotiating position.
The leaks have since been contested by the British government in an increasingly bitter war of words ahead of formal Brexit negotiations.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier ramped up the pressure on the UK, warning that Brexit talks could not be “quick and painless”. He declined to comment on reports of Brussels seeking a €100bn divorce settlement from the UK.
Separately, Juncker's chief of staff Martin Selmayr claimed that Brexit “will not be a success”. Speaking at a Politico event, Selmayr described the referendum verdict last June as “a sad and sorry event”.
However, Open Europe director Henry Newman leapt to May's defence saying her comments on the EU's apparent intervention in the UK election were “fully justified”.
“The leaks over the last few days and the statements seem to be a deliberate attempt to intervene,” he told City A.M. “It's extremely ill-judged and will do nothing to further their cause in the UK or in the rest of Europe.”
Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg told City A.M.: “The EU bureaucracy is trying to defeat Mrs May but in the end is making her stronger. As [former US president Barack] Obama showed last year the British don't like being told what to do by foreign potentates.”
However, May's political rivals have accused her of deliberately souring the tone of talks with the EU. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the Prime Minister was “playing party games with Brexit”, while Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon said May had “poisoned the atmosphere” of talks.