EU leaders compare Brexit to a Hitchcock thriller after shock early election announcement

Ben Riley-Smith
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council - AFP

European leaders reacted to Theresa May’s shock election announcement by comparing Brexit to a Hitchcock thriller – but insisting negotiations would not be affected.  

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, commented on the news by tweeting: “It was Hitchcock, who directed Brexit: first an earthquake and the tension rises.”

The joke was a reference to director Alfred Hitchcock’s famous quote that “a good film should start with an earthquake” and be followed by increasing tension. 

Critics claimed the bemusing tweet was a suggestion that the political ramifications for the UK from the Brexit vote were only beginning to be felt. 

Mr Tusk also said he had a “good phone call” with the Prime Minister about the early election, during which Mrs May underlined the UK’s “deep and special partnership" with the EU. 

EU leaders also moved to calm concerns about how the election could impact Brexit talks by saying preparations for talks would not be affected. 

A Brussels source told AFP: "This is a domestic matter for the UK. But we have some hope that this will lead to a strong leader in London that can negotiate with us with strong backing by the electorate. 

"This does not change things. We are ready. Early June was always the calendar [to start the negotiations with London].” 

A spokesman for Mr Tusk insisted that the snap election would not affect the EU’s attempts to come up with a consolidated position for Brexit talks. 

"The UK elections do not change our EU27 plans,” the spokesman said. “We expect to have the Brexit guidelines adopted by the European Council on 29 April and, following that, the Brexit negotiating directives ready on 22 May. This will allow the EU27 to start negotiations.”

A diplomat from an EU member state said that Mrs May "is completely right to call these elections now" as she could benefit from a favourable political context.

"The good news on the European side is that she will be less weak to make all the concessions she will have to make" in the talks, the diplomat said.

Mrs May indicated that she chose a snap election for this June because it would leave Brexit talks as unaffected as possible given political events in the EU. 

She said: “We need a general election and we need one now, because we have at this moment a one-off chance to get this done while the European Union agrees its negotiating position and before the detailed talks begin.”

Her reference to a “one-off chance” is believed to refer to the timings of European elections in the coming months that effectively stall any major progress on Brexit talks. 

The final round of the French election will be held in May while Germany will have to wait until late September to know whether Angela Merkel will be re-elected as Chancellor. 

Senior Tories believe that until the French and German leaders are known no major decision on Britain’s Brexit deal can be taken, despite a two-year countdown having been triggered in March. 

Other EU politicians said that the Mrs May’s decision was “understandable” and predicted that the Tories would win. 

Gonzalez Pons, a Spanish MEP for the EPP, said: "May calls for U.K. elections, which means either undoing Brexit or making it harder by shortening times. I wish the UK all the best."

Mrs May talked to Donald Trump, the US President, about her early election yesterday during a string of conversations with world leaders. 

She also discussed the decision with Ms Merkel, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, and Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

 

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