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5 May, 2017 11:01

EU’s Juncker says he’ll stop ‘speaking English’ because it’s losing importance

EU’s Juncker says he’ll stop ‘speaking English’ because it’s losing importance

The war of words continued between London and Brussels on Friday, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker saying he would stop speaking English because it is “losing importance.”

The dig came as Juncker prepared to give a speech in French on Friday morning.

“Slowly but surely, English is losing importance,” he joked.

The comment will surely not please the British Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, who has called on Commission officials to keep “their views to themselves.”

The fracas comes after a series of cantankerous remarks exchanged by officials in both cities, following a dinner hosted for Juncker at Downing Street last week.

Details of the diplomatic dinner were leaked to the German press, describing how Juncker and Prime Minister Theresa May “clashed” over a number issues, with the Eurocrat quoted as saying he was “10 times more skeptical than I was before” about the prospects for negotiations.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4 on Friday morning, Fallon criticized Juncker, saying the whole negotiation process “would certainly be easier if Commission officials kept their views to themselves and not further complicate what is already going to be a tough negotiation.

“It’s clear from Theresa May’s reaction that she is prepared, whatever the Commission officials are doing in Brussels, the bureaucrats, she is prepared to stand up for Britain’s vital national interests in these very complicated talks.”

Fallon added that “any criticism of Commission officials is fair, that leaking should not have occurred, it was a very one-sided account of a dinner meeting.”

He supported May’s belligerent rhetoric too, saying the PM “was right to point out to everybody that these negotiations are going to be not just difficult, but extremely tough, and to rightly point out how they are going to be dealt with.”

The defense secretary’s statement came mere hours after Brexit Secretary David Davis argued a “line was crossed” by Europe when it suggested Britain could be made to pay a €100 billion (£84.5 billion/US$110 billion) “exit bill.” The EU is “trying to bully the British people,” Davis told an audience at BBC Question Time.

“The British people will not be bullied, and the government will not allow them to be bullied,” he added.

EU softer side

Fallon’s and Davis’ European counterparts do seem to be appealing for calm.

“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,” said European Council President Donald Tusk at a Brussels press conference on Thursday.

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

Earlier in the day he had tweeted that Brexit talks were “difficult enough. If emotions get out of hand, they'll become impossible. Discretion, moderation [and] mutual respect needed.”