Inside the May/Juncker Dinner about Brexit

A German Newspaper FAZ has an extensive report on the meeting between the European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker and Theresa May just last week. It has been reported that the meeting did not go well but just how bad was not know until yesterday.

Jeremy Cliffe of the Economist in Berlin has very kindly transcribed the meeting on his Twitter feed and here are the total exchanges from the article as transcribed by Forbes where you can find the extensive report. I have hightlighted some of the key passages

Today’s FAZ report on May’s disastrous dinner with Juncker – briefed by senior Commission sources -is absolutely damning.

May had said she wanted to talk not just Brexit but also world problems; but in practice it fell to Juncker to propose one to discuss.

May has made clear to the Commission that she fully expects to be reelected as PM.

It is thought [in the Commission] that May wants to frustrate the daily business of the EU27, to improve her own negotiating position.

May seemed pissed off at Davis for regaling her dinner guests of his ECJ case against her data retention measures-three times.

EU side were astonished at May’s suggestion that EU/UK expats issue could be sorted at EU Council meeting at the end of June. Juncker objected to this timetable as way too optimistic given complexities, eg on rights to health care.

Juncker pulled two piles of paper from his bag: Croatia’s EU entry deal, Canada’s free trade deal. His point: Brexit will be v v complex.

May wanted to work through the Brexit talks in monthly, 4-day blocks; all confidential until the end of the process. Commission said impossible to reconcile this with need to square off member states & European Parliament, so documents must be published.

EU side felt May was seeing whole thing through rose-tinted-glasses. “Let us make Brexit a success” she told them. Juncker countered that Britain will now be a third state, not even (like Turkey) in the customs union: “Brexit cannot be a success”.

May seemed surprised by this and seemed to the EU side not to have been fully briefed. She cited her own JHA opt-out negotiations as home sec as a model: a mutually useful agreement meaning lots on paper, little in reality. May’s reference to the JHA (justice and home affairs) opt-outs set off alarm signals for the EU side. This was what they had feared. I.e., as home sec May opted out of EU measures (playing to UK audience) then opted back in, and wrongly thinks she can do same with Brexit.

“The more I hear, the more sceptical I become” said Juncker (this was only half way through the dinner).

Ultimately it will be shadow boxing until the French and German Elections are over, but if this is a taste of things to come,then the UK government should take off the rose tinted glasses and prepare a go it alone.

David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs