Theresa May mocked by EU parliament's chief negotiator

Joe Watts
European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, President of the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), addresses the European Parliament during a debate on Brexit priorities and the upcomming talks on the UK's withdrawal from the EU: Reuters

The European Parliament’s chief Brexit co-ordinator has mocked Theresa May’s election campaign slogan, by suggesting she lacks a “strong and stable” understanding of the complex issues around Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

Guy Verhofstadt, already a fierce critic of the Prime Minister, finished his attack by saying it is “time to get real” about how difficult a Brexit deal may be.

It comes after a German newspaper reported that in the wake of a meeting with the Prime Minister, Jean Claude Juncker phoned Angela Merkel and said Ms May lives “in another galaxy” and is “deluding herself” over Brexit.

Mr Verhofstadt, who is heading the Parliament’s role in Brexit, said on Twitter: “Any Brexit deal requires a strong & stable understanding of the complex issues involved. The clock is ticking – it's time to get real.”

Ms May has built her entire election campaign on the slogan “strong and stable”, which is being repeated over and again by her and her ministers in interviews.

Leaks to the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper suggested EU Commission President Mr Juncker knocked back Ms May’s plan to reach a deal guaranteeing citizens’ rights as early as June, because he believed the issue too complex to agree so soon.

Downing Street said it did not recognise the version of the meeting reported by the publication.

While Ms May’s officials described the face-to-face as “constructive” just after it ended, Mr Juncker is reported to have said: “I leave Downing Street 10 times more sceptical than I was before.”

On Tuesday morning No10 would not comment further on the leaks, apart from saying: “We approach these talks in a constructive manner and with huge amounts of goodwill.”

Ex-Belgian prime minister Mr Verhofstatd has previously attacked Theresa May over her decision to call an election, while apparently refusing to spell out more detail of her approach to Brexit.

He said: “It appears this election is being driven by the opportunism of the party in government, rather than by the people they represent.”

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