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4th Mar 2024

May accused of 'poisoning' EU talks

British prime minister Theresa May escalated the war of words with Brussels on Wednesday (3 May), as opponents accused her of trying to use Brexit to make political gains in the 8 June election.

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon accused May of trying "to poison the well” of Brexit talks out of “narrow, partisan motives”.

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Referring to May’s statement that an EU negotiating mandate, published on Wednesday, was designed to interfere in the British election, Sturgeon accused May of "an irresponsible, gratuitous attack on our European neighbours” for the sake of “narrow party political interests”.

"Insulting our neighbours simply makes the Brexit mountain much harder to climb,” Sturgeon said.

Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled opposition leader, who trails May by almost 20 percent in pre-election polls, accused her of "playing party games” with Brexit.

Emily Thornberry, Corbyn’s shadow foreign secretary, called May’s statement "preposterous, paranoid, and xenophobic”.

She likened the PM to a "hybrid of Richard Nixon and Cersei Lannister".

Nixon was a US president known for cynicism. Lannister is a power-hungry queen in a TV show called the Game of Thrones.

"Instead of alienating our European partners, and insulting them with these ludicrous accusations, she [may] should be working to build effective relationships and make meaningful progress,” Thornberry said.

Consequences

May noted on Wednesday that if the UK did not get the Brexit negotiations right "the consequences will be serious”.

"If we do not stand up and get this negotiation right we risk the secure and well-paid jobs we want for our children and our children’s children too," she said.

"If we don’t get the negotiation right, if we let the bureaucrats of Brussels run over us, we will lose the chance to build a fairer society with real opportunity for all,” she added.

She spoke a few hours after the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, unveiled the bloc’s position for the talks.

“There will be consequences. Those who pretend or did pretend that you can leave the European Union and there are no consequences simply aren’t telling the truth,” Barnier said.

May accused the EU of interfering in the 8 June vote.

Timing

"The European Commission’s negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials,” she said.

“All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June”, she added.

She accused “some in Brussels" of not wanting the talks to succeed or for Britain to prosper.

She also scolded the “continental media” for “misrepresenting" the UK’s position.

Her remark alluded to German newspaper FAZ, which reported that her dinner last week with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker was a fiasco.

She warned on a previous occasion that she would be a “bloody difficult woman” for Juncker during the Brexit talks.

Juncker said on Wednesday: "I deeply respect the British prime minister. I like her as a person. I have noted she’s a tough lady. This is not for the future. This is a real-time description".

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