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  1. ITV Report

Theresa May accuses 'Brussels bureaucrats' of trying to influence election with threats

Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the "bureaucrats of Brussels" of seeking to influence the result of the General Election through threats and leaked misreporting.

She said Britain's Brexit negotiating position has been misrepresented in the European press as she made her pitch to return to office while marking the formal end of the 2015 Parliament.

The PM spoke amid reports Germany and France will demand a soaring €100bn (£84bn) divorce bill from Britain during the Brexit talks.

It came days after the German media reported tensions at talks between Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Theresa May framed the election as a battle to get the best Brexit deal.

"In the last few days we have seen just how tough these talks are likely to be," the prime minister said in a speech in Downing Street after she visited the Queen to mark Parliament's formal dissolution ahead of the June 8 vote.

"Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press. The European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened," she said.

"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."

  • Video report by ITV News Business Editor Joel Hills

Mrs May framed the election as a battle to get the best Brexit deal and called on voters to "give me your backing to fight for Britain".

Comparing herself with Jeremy Corbyn, she claimed "we would all pay a high price" if the Labour leader was elected.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston saw Mrs May's speech as a targeted warning to the rest of Europe as well as domestic voters.

Responding to the address, Mr Corbyn claimed a clear difference between Labour and the Conservatives, saying: "We won't threaten Europe on the way into Brexit."

Asked about Mrs May's claim he was a risk to voters, he replied: "The risk to this country is a government that sets up megaphone diplomacy ahead of serious negotiations, that threatens to walk away from those talks if they don't go their way.

"Our view is you work with people - you don't threaten from the start."

Mr Corbyn also accused the prime minister of "playing party games with Brexit in the hope of winning advantage for the Tories" in the election.

“By winding up the public confrontation with Brussels, the Prime Minister wants to wrap the Conservative party in the Union Jack and distract attention from her government’s economic failure and rundown of our public services," he said.

Mrs May said voters faced a "very simple" choice on June 8 between her and Mr Corbyn for the next prime minister.

Mrs May said the election was also about building a "stronger and fairer economy" but said Brexit talks loomed large over all other concerns.

The PM's address came after she visited Buckingham Palace, where she was greeted by the Queen's equerry Wing Commander Samuel Fletcher.

"Whoever wins on the eighth of June will face one overriding task - to get the best possible deal for this United Kingdom from Brexit," she said.

Mrs May warned of "serious consequences" if talks with Brussels go wrong, saying: "This Brexit negotiation is central to everything."

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon criticised Mrs May's speech on Twitter as "deeply irresponsible" and accused the prime minister of using the Brexit talks to distract from domestic concerns.

The prime minister earlier spent just over 30 minutes with the Queen at Buckingham Palace after arriving shortly before 3pm.

Theresa May left the Palace just after 3.35pm.

Mrs May had travelled the short distance from Downing Street by car for the brief ceremonial audience.

The Queen earlier was seen arriving at the Palace ahead of the formal meeting before the PM arrived in a chauffeur-driven car.

The Queen arrives at Buckingham Palace ahead of her meeting with Theresa May. Credit: PA

Mrs May was greeted at the King's door entrance by the Queen's equerry Wing Commander Samuel Fletcher, who led her to the monarch.

Although MPs left Westminster last Thursday, Parliament did not officially dissolve until a minute after midnight on Wednesday morning.

The prime minister's car is seen being driven into the centre of the Palace's quadrangle.

It marks 25 working days before the June 8 poll.

Prime ministers used to have to ask the monarch to dissolve Parliament but the 2011 Fixed-Term Parliaments Act made the process automatic.