UK Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the European Union of using Brexit as an excuse to influence the outcome of Britain’s upcoming general election.
Speaking after a meeting with Queen Elizabeth II, May told reporters at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday that the “bureaucrats of Brussels” were hoping to sway voters by making “threats” against the country.
“The European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened. Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials,” she said.
She also attacked the European media, saying they had “misrepresented” her government’s stance on negotiations concerning the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
“Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press,” she said, apparently taking a swipe at a German newspaper’s allegations about her dinner with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
According to the report, Juncker had warned May during last Wednesday's dinner that the negotiations will not start until London pays an alleged amount of £60 billion on its "divorce bill" and clarifies the future of EU citizens residing in the UK.
May later on dismissed the claims as “Brussels gossip.”
In compliance with British law for general elections, she asked the queen to dissolve the Parliament on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said a deal with Britain over its departure from the bloc would not be reached “quickly and painlessly.”
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“Some have created the illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on our lives or that negotiations can be concluded quickly and painlessly,” Barnier said in a press conference in Brussels on Wednesday. “This is not the case.”
May has been busy campaigning for a snap general election she called for late last month.
While she insists that the vote is necessary for her to gain a stronger foothold in the negotiations, analysts say May’s decision was an opportunistic move to suppress opposition from Labour and win a more dominant majority in the parliament.
May is faced with fierce competition from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whose party has been steadily eating into the ruling Tories’ comfortable lead in polls over the past weeks.
Corbyn, a firm opponent of Brexit, says May should not get a free pass over Brexit and ignore Parliament’s demand during the process.
May, on the other hand, says the government should handle the negotiations on its own and present the final deal to the lawmakers.