Brexit climbdown: How ‘tormented’ Theresa May asked Juncker for help

Theresa may and Eu commission president junker
Big man clothes

EXPRESS

Today, Boris Johnson will meet President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen for the first post-election Brexit trade talks. The visit comes ahead of Britain’s formal departure from the bloc, which is expected to take place on January 31. It will be the first time the President of the European Commission has come to Downing Street since May 2017, when Theresa May hosted Jean-Claude Juncker.

A partial account of that meeting was leaked to the German press, amid claims that Mrs May begged for help and appeared “tormented” and “despondent”.

Mr Juncker’s ex-chief of staff Martin Selmayr was accused of leaking the unflattering account of the meal.

However, Mr Selmayr denied the accusation and said he and his boss had “no interest in weakening” the Prime Minister.

The newspaper report said: “She indicated that back home friend and foe are at her back plotting to bring her down.

“May said she had no room left to manoeuvre.

“The Europeans have to create it for her. May’s face and appearance spoke volumes.

“Mr Juncker is said to have later told his colleagues.

“She has deep rings under her eyes. She looks like someone who can’t sleep a wink.”

The report prompted an extraordinary diplomatic row, with the former Prime Minister accusing the EU of trying to “run us over” in Brexit talks before the snap election that year.

Unlike the former Prime Minister, though, Mr Johnson is said to be determined to avoid a repeat of the unsuccessful trade talks under Mrs May.

He believes that the next phase of talks will be significantly easier than the first ones and he is committed to not extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of next year.

While some in the bloc have warned of the complexities of the talks and cast doubt over his timetable, Ms von der Leyen already appears to be in a much weaker position than her predecessor, Mr Juncker.

While Theresa May’s minority government was propped up by 10 DUP MPs, Mr Johnson is now the most successful Tory leader since Margaret Thatcher.

In the December 12 general election, the former Mayor of London captured 364 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, effectively ending the incredibly long battle between the executive and Parliament.

Mr Johnson, therefore, will unlikely beg for help or look “tormented”, undermining therefore his negotiating hand.

BBC Europe Editor Katya Adler revealed on election night that EU leaders were “nervous” about Mr Johnson’s predicted majority.

Cheap fights

She said: “The assumption is if there is a big majority for Boris Johnson, this could allow him the flexibility to actually have a softer Brexit or actually let trade deal negotiations go beyond December next year.

“But maybe not. We don’t actually know what Brexit Boris Johnson wants.

“Perhaps he could be more nationalist than we’ve sort of been led to expect so far.

“So EU leaders tonight are sort of nervous as they look ahead.”

Brexit climbdown: How ‘tormented’ Theresa May asked Juncker for help

Today, Boris Johnson will meet President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen for the first post-election Brexit trade talks. The visit comes ahead of Britain’s formal departure from the bloc, which is expected to take place on January 31.

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