Brexit talks would be easier if European Commission officials “kept their views to themselves”, Sir Michael Fallon has said amid claims that the EU is seeking to bully British voters. Defence Secretary bemoaned “one-sided leaking” from commission officials as he defended Prime Minister Theresa May’s scathing attack on Brussels in the wake of negative press stories about the negotiations on Britain’s exit from the EU.
His remarks came hours after Brexit Secretary David Davis said “the line was crossed” when further stories appeared suggesting that Britain would be hit with an exit bill of 100 billion Euros, nearly double the previous estimates.
Mr Davis also backed Mrs May’s response as he claimed the commission was “trying to bully the British people”, adding on BBC One’s Question Time: “The British people will not be bullied, and the Government will not allow them to be bullied.”
European Council president Donald Tusk had appealed for discretion in the negotiations – a plea widely viewed as being aimed at European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s office.
Sir Michael, asked if it would be easier if Mr Tusk and others did not comment on what is going on, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “Well, it’d certainly be easier if commission officials kept their views to themselves and not further complicate what is already going to be a tough negotiation.”
“But what’s clear from Theresa May’s reaction is that she is prepared, whatever the commission officials are doing in Brussels, to stand up for Britain’s vital national interest in these very complicated talks.”
Mrs. May sent shockwaves through Brussels with a dramatic Downing Street statement on Wednesday accusing unnamed “European politicians and officials” of issuing threats deliberately timed to affect the June 8 vote.
The row blew up after a German newspaper published an apparently well-briefed account of the Prime Minister’s meeting with key Brussels figures in No 10 last week.
It reportedly ended with Mr. Juncker saying he was “10 times more sceptical” of the likelihood of a successful Brexit.