European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Wednesday that British Prime Minister Theresa May was a “tough lady”, after reports of a disastrous Brexit dinner between the pair.
Juncker also warned Britain against threatening to walk out of the talks on its exit from the European Union over a row about the bill it must pay.
May had boasted on Tuesday that she would be a “bloody difficult woman” in the negotiations — a description once used by a former colleague.
“I deeply respect the British PM, I like her as a person,” Juncker said at a press conference in Brussels.
“I have noted that she is a tough lady so this is not for the future, this is real-time description,” he said alongside Estonia’s prime minister, whose country will soon take over the EU’s rotating presidency.
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said at the weekend that Juncker left last Wednesday’s dinner meeting “10 times more sceptical” about the prospect of a Brexit deal and told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that May was in a “different galaxy”.
At the press conference, Juncker also hit out at Brexit minister David Davis for the way he dismissed a report in The Financial Times suggesting that Britain’s exit bill had soared to 100 billion euros ($109 billion, 85 billion pounds) from 60 billion euros.
According to Davis, “In the walk-away circumstances are there is nothing to be paid,” in an echo of a previous warning by May that no deal with the EU was better than a bad deal.
“I don’t think that David was right when he was threatening the he would be ready to go out,” Juncker said.
“My experience in politics always was that those who are going out have to come back.”