Jean-Claude Juncker accuses Britain of ‘abandoning’ Europe and says English is 'losing its importance'
The open warfare between Brussels and Britain continued today as Jean-Claude Juncker accused the UK of “abandoning” the EU and delivered a speech in French because “English is losing importance in Europe”.
The European Commission President made the quip during an address in Italy to EU dignitaries in which he branded Brexit a “tragedy”.
Mr Juncker’s latest salvo comes after Donald Tusk, the European Council President, called for calm following a high-profile row between the UK government and the commission after a Downing St dinner last week.
On the eve of the French presidential election, Mr Juncker decided to deliver his speech today in French so voters can “understand what I am saying about Europe and nations”.
"I will express myself in French because, slowly but surely, English is losing importance in Europe,” he joked.
Turning to Brexit, Mr Juncker continued: "We shouldn't under-estimate the importance of the decision made by the British people. It is no small event.
"And of course we will negotiate with our British friends in full transparency, but there should be no doubt whatsoever that it is not the EU which is abandoning the UK, it is the opposite - they are abandoning the EU.
"And this is a difference which will be felt over the next few years."
Last night Brexit Secretary David Davis accused the European Commission of trying to “bully” the British people with its warnings over the Brexit negotiations.
He said a “line was crossed” with reports that the UK could be facing a 100bn euro divorce bill from Brussels, despite an initial estimate of around 60bn euros.
Mr Davis also claimed there had been a “deliberately misleading briefing” by Brussels following Mr Juncker’s now infamous dinner with Theresa May at Downing Street.
The morning after the rendezvous the European Commission President reportedly called Angela Merkel to claim the Prime Minister was "on another galaxy" with her approach to Brexit.
On Wednesday Mrs May made the incendiary suggestion that Brussels was trying to influence the outcome of the general election.
The row prompted Mr Tusk to call for calm and urge Mrs may not to let “emotions get out of hand”, arguing the Brexit talks “will become impossible” without a cooling of tensions.