David Davis: We won't be bullied on Brexit

Updated: 
Brexit

David Davis has accused the European Commission of trying to bully the British people, as the president of the European Council appealed for calm in Brexit talks.

The Brexit Secretary backed Prime Minister Theresa May's scathing attack on Brussels in the wake of negative press stories about the negotiations on Britain's exit from the European Union.

Speaking on BBC One's Question Time, Mr Davis said there had been a "deliberately misleading briefing" to the press after a dinner at Downing Street last week.

He added that "the line was crossed" when further stories appeared suggesting Britain would be hit with an exit bill of 100 billion euro (£84.5 billion), nearly double the previous estimates.

"Clearly what was happening was the commission was trying to bully the British people - and the British people will not be bullied, and the Government will not allow them to be bullied," Mr Davis said.

"So she made the point she made, and she was right to do so."

Mrs May sent shockwaves through Brussels with a dramatic Downing Street statement on Wednesday accusing unnamed "European politicians and officials" of issuing threats deliberately timed to affect the June 8 vote.

The row blew up after a German newspaper published an apparently well-briefed account of the Prime Minister's meeting with key Brussels figures in No 10 last week.

It reportedly ended with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker saying he was "10 times more sceptical" of the likelihood of a successful Brexit.

In a call for calm, European Council president Donald Tusk appealed for discretion in the negotiations, a plea widely viewed as being aimed at Mr Juncker's office.

At a press conference in Brussels, Mr Tusk said: "These negotiations are difficult enough as they are.

"If we start arguing before they even begin, they will become impossible.

"The stakes are too high to let our emotions get out of hand because at stake are the daily lives and interests of millions of people on both sides of the channel.

"We must keep in mind that in order to succeed we need today discretion, moderation, mutual respect and a maximum of goodwill."

European Parliament president Antonio Tajani rejected the Prime Minister's claim and a spokesman for Mr Juncker said his office was too busy to meddle in the election.

Mr Tajani said: "We are not seeking to influence the result in the UK.

"It is better to have an interlocutor who is not constantly looking for votes because they have had the election, in order to work towards a good solution ...", he added.

"If you have an election campaign, the rhetoric gets sharper and more robust. I don't think there is any question of influencing the campaign."

Speaking outside Number 10 on Wednesday, the PM said: "The events of the last few days have shown that, whatever our wishes and however reasonable the positions of Europe's other leaders, there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed, who do not want Britain to prosper.

"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 June 8."