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May: Press reports about Brexit talks with Juncker just ‘Brussels gossip’

The parties met in Downing Street last week.

Theresa May has dismissed claims she is at loggerheads with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker over her Brexit negotiating strategy as just “Brussels gossip”.

The Prime Minister came under fire following reports Mr Juncker walked out of talks last week in Downing Street saying he was “10 times more sceptical than before”.

Opposition parties warned the UK was heading for a “disastrous hard Brexit” after a detailed account in the German press of their dinner suggested Mr Juncker left fearing the negotiations would end in failure.

But campaigning in Ormskirk in Lancashire, Mrs May brushed off the claims insisting that they were at odds with what the commission had said about the meeting.

“From what I have seen of this account, I think it is Brussels gossip,” she said.

“Look at what the European Commission themselves said immediately after the dinner took place which was that the talks had been constructive.”

Downing Street said it did not recognise the latest account which appeared in the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

The Prime Minister nevertheless sought to exploit the report to drive home her message that she – not Jeremy Corbyn – can provide the strong leadership needed to secure the best deal for Britain.

“It also shows that these negotiations are at times going to be tough and in order to get the best deal for Britain we need to ensure that we have got that strong and stable leadership into those negotiations,” she said.

“When it comes June 8 people have a clear choice.

“There will be 27 European countries on one side of the table – who do they want to see standing up for Britain on the other side? Me or Jeremy Corbyn.”

The Labour leader, campaigning in Battersea, south London, warned however that Mrs May’s negotiating strategy was unravelling.

To start negotiations by threatening to walk away with no deal and set up a low tax economy on the shores of Europe is not a very sensible way of approaching people with whom half of our trade is done at the present time,” he said.

“Of course they are going to be difficult (negotiations), but you start from the basis that you want to reach an agreement, you start from the basis that you have quite a lot of shared interests and values.

“If you start from that basis and show respect, you are more likely to get a good deal.

“But if you start with a megaphone, calling people silly names, it is not a great start to anything.”

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