Brexit: EU head trolls United Kingdom, says English 'losing importance in Europe'

Elias Hubbard
May 19, 2017

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took a swipe at Britain, saying he would not give a speech in English because the language was becoming less significant following Brexit.

He said: "Slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election".

Speaking at an European Union conference in Italy on Friday, chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that member states must have reassurances that citizens affected by Britain's withdrawal from the bloc will be treated "properly and humanely". "We will negotiate fairly with our British friends, but let's not forget that the European Union is not abandoning the United Kingdom".

Brussels was quick to dismiss the claims, with European Union president Donald Tusk on Thursday cautioning against letting "emotions get out of hand" before formal negotiations are due to begin after Britain's June vote.

The prime minister's scathing attack followed reports of a disastrous dinner with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Barnier.

Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday accused Brussels of interfering in the United Kingdom general election, which is scheduled for June 8.

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).

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani rejected the prime minister's claim and a spokesman for Mr Juncker said his office was too busy to meddle in the United Kingdom election.

She reiterated her resolve to get a good deal for Britain and make a success of Brexit with her "strong and stable" leadership, as opposed to Opposition Labour party's "coalition of chaos".

Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform, said on Twitter that May had misunderstood Brussels' politicians' motives.

The Secretary of State for Exiting the EU said the European Commission is trying to "bully the British people" and said the leaking the German press was "deliberately misleading."

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. "If we start arguing before they even begin, they will become impossible", Tusk said in a statement read out after a meeting with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

The head of the EU's executive arm said no one should "underestimate the real importance of this sovereign decision of the British people" to divorce the EU.

"We are criticized, torn to pieces, but elsewhere in the world we are admired", he said.

The smaller, pro-EU Liberal Democrats, who were nearly wiped out in the 2015 general election after entering a coalition government with the Conservatives, are hoping to pick up some momentum for the June vote with gains on Thursday.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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