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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Brussels gossip?

Brussels gossip?


Conspiracy theories from Downing Street ahead of general election

The prime minister's claim that 'Brussels bureaucrats' are attempting to influence the result of Britain's general election has not been well received by members of the legal profession who have accused her of peddling a conspiracy theory.

Speaking outside Downing Street this week, Theresa May said: 'Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press, the European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened.

'Threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials. All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on 8 June.'

The accusations followed a leaked account of a meeting between May and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, that cast doubt of the prime minister's understanding of the Brexit process, and after Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, told the UK to pay its 'incontestable' £92bn Brexit divorce bill or face 'legal' consequences.

Initially dismissing press reports of her 'disastrous' recent dinner with Juncker as 'Brussels gossip', May then promised to be a 'bloody difficult woman' in Brexit talks, before then adding in her Downing Street speech that she would not allow the 'bureaucrats of Brussels run over us'.

While drawing some plaudits for her combative address, lawyers were far from enamoured with May's performance. 'So it begins. The vilification and blame game. Is this strong & stable leadership, to pull us into words of war?' tweeted Cloisters' Schona Jolly QC. 'Strong and stable? Or a bellicose conspiracy theorist?' replied 11KBW employment and public law barrister Tim Pitt-Payne.

'Provoked by suggestions she may not be approaching negotiations in a realistic and grown up way PM holds a conference to put it beyond doubt,' commented Sean Jones QC, while criminal law solicitor Nicholas Diable said: 'We need competent leadership in the UK. Sadly Theresa May seems to be trying to out useless Jeremy Corbyn.'

In a series of tweets, The Secret Barrister commented: 'Serious question: I don't understand what, in May's conspiracy theory, the EU would hope to gain by influencing our election. Anyone?

'Is it to elect career-Brexiteer Corbyn? Or do these shadowy EU figures think they can boost the Lib Dems by 317 seats and secure a 2nd ref? Or, is it possibly a bit more likely that Juncker and co are just chest-beating and playing to the gallery pre-negotiations?

'I'd offer to show Mrs May Occam's Razor, but I don't think she can be trusted with sharp objects right now.'

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