Theresa May dismisses report of disastrous Brexit meeting as 'Brussels gossip'

German newspaper claims Jean-Claude Juncker left Downing Street "ten times more sceptical than I was before"

Theresa May dismisses report of disastrous Brexit meeting as 'Brussels gossip'

Prime Minister Theresa May welcomes Head of the European Commission, President Jean-Claude Juncker at 10 Downing Street. Picture by: Isabel Infantes/EMPICS Entertainment

Updated 18.05

Theresa May has dismissed a report describing a disastrous Brexit meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker as 'Brussels gossip'.

The British government is reported to have disputed the account, which appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper.

The report - which followed a private dinner between Mrs May, Mr Juncker and other officials last Wednesday in London - went viral in a series of tweets by Economist journalist Jeremy Cliffe.

According to the newspaper, EU officials were amazed at Mrs May's suggestions that the concerns around the status of EU and UK citizens could be sorted at a European Council meeting in late June.

Mr Juncker is said to have produced piles of paper over the CETA trade deal with Canada and Croatia's EU membership agreement to illustrate how complex any Brexit deal will be.

Mr Juncker and Michel Barnier - the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, who was also in attendance - were described as having been astounded by their host's suggestion that the UK did not have to pay "a penny" of the Brexit divorce bill.

The British Prime Minister is said to have repeated her pledge to make Brexit a success - but Mr Juncker is claimed to have responded by insisting "Brexit cannot be a success".

The report suggests that EU officials told the British representatives that the EU "is not a golf club", and Mr Juncker reportedly told Mrs May he was leaving Downing Street "ten times more sceptical than I was before".

The EC President is said to have phoned German Chancellor Angela Merkel the following morning to suggest Mrs May was "living in another galaxy".

'Constructive meeting'

Officials publicly described the dinner meeting as 'constructive'.

Speaking to BBC, Theresa May said: "I have to say from what I've seen of this account I think's its Brussels gossip.

"Just look at what the European Commission themselves said immediately after the dinner took place, which was that the talks had been constructive."

Bloomberg quotes a representative of the British government as saying: “We do not recognize this account.

"As the prime minister and Jean-Claude Juncker made clear, this was a constructive meeting ahead of the negotiations formally getting underway.”

Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the UK, said the report shows the British government "has no clue".

The report has also been highlighted by members of the Scottish National Party and the UK's Labour Party, with the SNP's Michael Russell arguing: "Leaving the EU with no deal - and no agreement on access to the single market - would be an unprecedented act of self-harm which would devastate the UK and Scottish economy."

Germany's Minister for Europe Michael Roth, meanwhile, tweeted in English to say the British government 'must abandon myth' over Brexit.

Over the weekend, Mr Juncker said: "I have the impression sometimes that our British friends, not all of them, underestimate the technical difficulties we have to face."

Full Brexit negotiations are due to get underway following the British general election in June.

Additional reporting by IRN