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May dismisses media focus on 'disastrous' meeting with Juncker as 'Brussels gossip'

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Prime Minister Theresa May has dismissed the supposed "disastrous" meeting she had with the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, as "Brussels gossip".

The UK government reported the meeting as "constructive", yet the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagzeitung newspaper outlined that the PM appeared poorly briefed for the meeting, having unrealistic expectations on the length and process of the Brexit’s negotiations.

May declared on Monday: "I have to say that from what I've seen of this account I think it's Brussels gossip."

She went on to say: "In order to get the best deal for Britain we need to ensure we've got strong and stable leadership going into these negotiations."

According to the newspaper, however, in the meeting May refused to concede the due payment of billions of euros to the EU, including the Brexit bill, claiming that this demand could not be found in any EU treaties. The President of the European Commission threatened that if UK was to refuse this, there will be no trade deal with the EU.

This arose after the European Union expanded its demand for the UK’s Brexit financial settlement to include the UK’s political commitment, such as the share of a £2.5 billion fund to help refugees in Turkey. Such demands have been favoured by Germany, reflecting the European Union’s determination not to be left out financially as the UK withdraws from the EU.

According to the report, the PM also affirmed her wish for an agreement on the rights of UK citizens in Europe to be reached, or at least clarified, at the EU Council meeting this June. However, this was rejected by Juncker who claimed that the issue, including associated matters such as healthcare, was too complex to be resolved in June.

May also informed Juncker that she wanted Brexit talks in four-day blocks every month, and to keep the discussions confidential. Junker dismissed the idea, mentioning Croatia’s EU entry deal and Canada’s free trade deal, and highlighting that those talks will be complex.

The morning following the meeting the President of the European Commission called German Chancellor Angela Merkel, supposedly stating that May was "deluding herself". This drove Merkel to address the EU’s Brexit summit in her speech, declaring that the EU will choose how to handle the negotiation and will put its own interests first. She also urged the remaining member states to be united when talks starts in June on Brexit.

These reports show the great difficulties which lie ahead. While most hope for a deal which would benefit both parts, the political game currently being played risks costing the population a "hard Brexit", potentially pushing politicians' pride before the well-being of citizens.

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