BRUSSELS • British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday accused European politicians and officials of seeking to affect the outcome of the June 8 general election by issuing threats over Brexit.
Speaking in front of her Downing Street office after visiting Queen Elizabeth to mark the dissolution of Parliament, the start of the election campaign, Mrs May said there were some in Brussels who did not want to see Brexit talks succeed.
Over the weekend, a German newspaper gave a damning account of talks last week between Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, saying he had told Mrs May Brexit could not be a success.
Yesterday, Mrs May said: "In the last few days we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be. 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."
Mrs May, whose Conservative Party has a double-digit lead in the polls, said reaching the best Brexit deal would be the overriding task for whoever wins the June 8 election and called on voters to give her their backing to "fight for Britain".
She said that while Britain wanted to reach a deal with the EU, that view was not shared by everyone in Brussels. "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."
Meanwhile, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier yesterday insisted that the bloc was not punishing Britain as London firmly rejected a reported €100 billion (S$152 billion) exit bill.
Mr Barnier warned, however, against the "illusion" that leaving the European Union would be quick or painless, urging Britain to start talks as soon as possible after its general election on June 8.
"There is no punishment, there is no Brexit bill. The financial settlement is only about settling the accounts," Mr Barnier said as he unveiled his proposed negotiating mandate for two years of talks.
Mr Barnier ruled out any immediate negotiations on transitional arrangements. A future relationship "is not to be discussed immediately, we have to first establish a solid basis", he said in Brussels. "Some have created the illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on our lives or that negotiations would be concluded quickly and painlessly - this is not the case."
London has warned it could simply walk away from the negotiations, following a Financial Times report that the estimated bill for Britain's departure had soared from €60 billion to €100 billion. "We will not be paying 100 billion," Brexit minister David Davis said. "In the walk-away circumstance, there is nothing to be paid."
REUTERS, BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE