Theresa May: Brussels trying to influence general election results with Brexit attacks
Theresa May has accused European Union officials of trying to "affect the result of the general election" by stepping up its criticisms of her Brexit strategy.
In extraordinary comments, the Prime Minister said "threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials" to coincide with the run-up to 8 June.
Standing on the steps of 10 Downing Street after meeting the Queen to mark the dissolution of Parliament, Mrs May said the attacks showed there were some in Brussels "who do not want Britain to prosper" in the future.
She said that was why she should be re-elected as Prime Minister with a working majority instead of "a hung parliament and a coalition of chaos" led by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Her incendiary remarks follow a war of words between the Government and Brussels since Mrs May had dinner in Downing Street with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last week.
Reports of the meeting in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said he called Angela Merkel the morning after to claim Mrs May was “on another galaxy”.
Among the issues of contention were the EU’s stance that the UK must pay a “divorce bill” to cover its liabilities, and Mrs May’s suggestion that the issue of the rights of UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK could be resolved as early as the end of June.
Mr Juncker is reported to have remarked: “I leave Downing Street ten times as sceptical as I was before.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator, yesterday mocked Mrs May's election mantra by tweeting that there needed to be a "strong and stable” understanding of the complexities of the Brexit negotiations.
It also emerged this morning that the EU could demand €100bn from the UK as the Brexit divorce bill, far in excess of the €60bn previously quoted.
Speaking at an unmarked podium with the door to Number 10 behind her, 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 that will take place on 8 June.
"By contrast, I made clear in my letter to the President of the European Council invoking Article 50 last month that, in leaving the European Union, Britain means no harm to our friends and allies on the continent.
"We continue to believe that no deal is better for Britain than a bad deal. But we want a deal. We want a deep and special partnership with the European Union. And we want the EU to succeed.
"But 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.
"So now more than ever we need to be led by a Prime Minister and a Government that is strong and stable."
The Prime Minister added: "The choice the country faces now is very simple. Because there are only two people who can possibly be Prime Minister after 8 June to negotiate Brexit. It is a choice between me – and Jeremy Corbyn.
"With me you will get strong and stable leadership, and an approach to Brexit that locks in economic growth, jobs for our children and strong finances for the NHS and the country’s schools.
"Or you will get Jeremy Corbyn with a hung parliament and a coalition of chaos. Britain simply will not get the right Brexit deal if we have the drift and division of a hung parliament.
"And so with Jeremy Corbyn negotiating Brexit we will all pay a high price. If instead you want the best negotiation for you and for Britain, then you must make your vote count."
Mrs May also took aim at the "separatists" of the SNP and Plaid Cymru, who she said "wish to tear our country apart".
In a direct message to voters, she said: "Give me your backing to lead Britain. Give me your backing to speak for Britain. Give me your backing to fight for Britain. And give me your backing to deliver for Britain.
"A stronger Britain, where our economic progress is secured and prosperity and opportunity is shared by all. A Britain that works, not just for the privileged few, but for every single one of us.
"Because making Brexit a success is central to our national interest. And it is central to your own security and prosperity."