Jean-Claude Juncker’s aide Martin Selmayr has tweeted today denying his responsibility for the leak of Prime Minister Theresa May’s conversations during a dinner last week in Brussels.
On Sunday, a German newspaper published an account of the meeting which said May had “begged for help” from the European Commission president.
“Everyone can see: the prime minister is marked by the struggle with her own party,” the article stated. “She has deep rings under her eyes. She looks like someone who doesn’t sleep at night.”
The article also described May as appearing “anxious, despondent and disheartened” during the dinner.
Selmayr was then accused by May’s ex-adviser Nick Timothy of being the source of this publication, claiming that “some in Brussels want no deal or a punitive one”.
After constructive Council meeting, Selmayr does this. Reminder that some in Brussels want no deal or a punitive one https://t.co/VDlhFx8bdl— Nick Timothy (@NickJTimothy) October 22, 2017
Selamyr’s reponse on Twitter today said it was an attempt to frame the EU and undermine the Brexit talks.
I deny that 1/we leaked this; 2/Juncker ever said this; 3/we are punitive on Brexit. It’s an attempt 2 frame EU side & 2 undermine talks. https://t.co/pGhCxExpHu— Martin Selmayr (@MartinSelmayr) October 23, 2017
Immediately after the dinner in Brussels, a joint statement was released assuring that Downing Street and the EU representatives were engaging in a “constructive and friendly atmosphere” when the conversations took place.
This was followed by the article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeiting (FAZ) on May’s distress, which has sparked more controversy during a tense time in Brexit negotiations.
In an unusual move, the European Commission dismissed the story at a briefing on Monday. “We would appreciate if these people would leave us alone. We have no time for gossip,” a spokesman said. “President Juncker would have never used the words attributed to him.”
There have been suggestions that such a leak might have been unintentional – the result of a conversation with a journalist. If Selmayr was not the source, the question remains open as to who was.
It’s not known how many people were at the dinner but according to the paper it was arranged at short notice on Theresa May’s initiative. The same publication revealed another behind-the-scenes account of a private dinner attended by the two leaders in April, which showed Juncker to be less than impressed with the UK’s Brexit preparations.