Tuesday

25th Sep 2018

Brussels gossip? May belittles report on Juncker clash

A devastating account of British prime minister Theresa May’s meeting with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker last week has shed light on the gap between the UK and the EU ahead of the soon-to-begin Brexit negotiations.

May tried to belittle the report, published in the German FAZ newspaper on Monday (1 May), as “Brussels gossip”, but did not deny the accuracy of the account.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

She also tried to use the image of a growing rift with Brussels to bolster her election campaign ahead of the 8 June snap vote.

FAZ said, citing anonymous EU officials, that the May-Juncker dinner, at her London residence on 26 April, exposed a poorly-briefed and ill-prepared May.

“I leave Downing Street ten times more sceptical than I was before,” Juncker said after the meeting according to FAZ.

No money, no trade deal

During the talks May said she would not agree to pay an exit bill when leaving the EU because there was nothing in the EU treaties on that type of settlement, FAZ said.

But Juncker reportedly told May if the UK did not respect its financial obligations, it would not be possible to agree a future trade deal.

The two also disagreed on the sequencing of the talks, with May insisting on negotiating the divorce settlement and the future trade deal in parallel.

But Juncker told her that Britain cannot cancel its membership of the EU as if the bloc was a "golf club".

The clash came out into the open at the weekend when the EU-27 agreed at a summit in Brussels on Saturday that the method and principle of settling the UK financial bill must be agreed before moving on to talks on future relations.

But May again told the BBC on Sunday that she would not agree on the divorce fee unless a new trade deal was put in place at the same time.

Citizens by June

She also said the EU and UK could agree on the work and residence rights of each other’s citizens by the end of June.

Juncker warned that that might be too ambitious, pointing to the complexities of mutual health care access as an example.

"I have the impression sometimes that our British friends do underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face”, he said after the summit.

"The single and not simple question of citizens rights is in fact a cortege of 25 different questions which have to be solved. This will take time,” he said.

Cherry-picking

EU officials also told FAZ that May thought she could opt-in to EU policies that she liked after the UK leaves.

During the dinner, May cited an example in 2014 when Britain opted out of EU police and criminal justice measures, then opted back in to 35 of them.

The EU has warned May several times that cherry-picking will not be possible.

May reportedly also said she wanted the Brexit negotiations to be held in secret in monthly, four-day blocs.

Juncker told her this was not possible because member states and the European Parliament need to be informed at each stage of the process.

According to FAZ, May urged Juncker to make Brexit a success.

Juncker told her he wanted good relations, but that Britain would have fewer EU perks when it left the single market and customs union.

“This cannot be a success,” he said.

Breakdown?

After the meeting, Juncker put the chances of a breakdown in the negotiations at over 50 percent.

According to the report, he was so alarmed that he called German chancellor Angela Merkel the next morning to say that May was "living in another galaxy" and "deluding herself”.

Merkel later that day said in a speech that some in the UK government had “illusions” about the nature of the talks.

Asked on Saturday at the EU summit about the FAZ scoop, Juncker said: “The meeting we had was a very constructive meeting, in a friendly atmosphere, privately everything went well, but in fact we have a problem. Because the British want to leave the EU, and it is not feasible that this can be done just like that."

"It was excellent, [and] I’m not talking about the food,” he joked.

Following the FAZ report, Michael Roth, Germany’s state minister for Europe tweeted: "The British government must abandon myth that all British will be better off post-Brexit."

EU boasts unity on Brexit talks

EU leaders adopted the bloc's guidelines for the UK exit negotiations that will start in June, amid concerns that France could elect a president that would try to take it out of the EU.

Transparency is key EU tactic in Brexit talks

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said his mandate and all EU commission working documents will be made public during the negotiations. Tactic or policy shift? This time, the EU is interested in transparency.

EU denies May 'begged for help'

The European Commission says leaked comments to German media are false and an effort to undermine the EU negotiating position on Brexit.

May accused of 'poisoning' EU talks

The UK prime minister is accused of making "paranoid and xenophobic" statments and alienating EU partners after she claims that some in Brussels do not want Britain to succeed.

News in Brief

  1. Migrant rescue ship heading to French port
  2. EU angry at British tabloids on Brexit
  3. UK to allow EU flights in no-deal Brexit
  4. Greek reporters arrested after story on 'mishandled' EU funds
  5. Austrian minister urges police to out foreign sex offenders
  6. ECB's Draghi set to clarify role in secretive G30 group
  7. Half of EU states at risk of missing recycling target
  8. Commission refers Poland to EU top court over rule of law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. EU court delivers transparency blow on MEP expenses
  2. Russian with Malta passport in money-laundering probe
  3. Cyprus: Russia's EU weak link?
  4. Missing signature gaffe for Azerbaijan gas pipeline
  5. Every major city in Europe is getting warmer
  6. No chance of meeting EU renewable goals if infrastructure neglected
  7. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  8. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us