May vows to be 'bloody difficult' as EU slams Brexit aims

2017-05-02 23:01
(John Stillwell, AP)

(John Stillwell, AP)

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London - Britain and the European Union say they want an amicable divorce. But negotiations have not even started yet and the sniping has already begun.

Prime Minister Theresa May vowed on Tuesday to be a "bloody difficult woman" in talks with the bloc, after EU officials accused the UK of failing to grasp the complexity of the task ahead.

Poles apart

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt, a master of the pointed political tweet, posted: "Any Brexit deal requires a strong & stable understanding of the complex issues involved. The clock is ticking - it's time to get real".

Verhofstadt chose his words carefully: "Strong and stable" is May's campaign slogan as she seeks to win a bigger parliamentary majority in Britain's June 8 election.

Formal Brexit negotiations won't start until after the UK election next month. But already warm words from London and Brussels about partnership and friendship have given way to a steady drip of leaks, spin and barbed comments - evidence that the two sides' expectations are poles apart.

May last week met European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker for a working dinner, greeting him with a kiss at the door of 10 Downing Street.

May's office said afterward that the meeting had been constructive. Juncker called it "excellent," though he noted: "I have the impression sometimes that our British friends ... underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face".

Hard bargaining

A far less diplomatic account was published by Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper. Its report on the meeting, credited to anonymous Commission sources, quoted Juncker as saying he left the dinner "10 times more skeptical than I was before" that negotiations will succeed.

Downing Street said it "does not recognise" the paper's description of the meeting and May dismissed the report as "Brussels gossip".

May told the BBC on Tuesday that she was well prepared to stand up to hard bargaining from Brussels.

"During the Conservative Party leadership campaign I was described by one of my colleagues as a 'bloody difficult woman,'" she said. "And I said at the time, the next person to find that out will be Jean-Claude Juncker".


Read more on:    eu  |  theresa may  |  uk  |  brexit

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