Jean-Claude Juncker promised journalists last Monday, before dining with Theresa May, that they would get an “autopsy report”. They had the grisly details before the week was over, with the Sunday’s edition of the German newspaper FAZ chronicling how the European Commission chief apparently thought the Prime Minister looked “ tormented…despondent” and had “rings under her eyes” as she “begged” him for help on Brexit.
This leak swiftly aroused suspicion, as the same journalist at the same paper had a similarly well-informed account (which didn’t put Mrs May in any better light) when the President had dinner with her in London earlier in the year. Fingers were pointed – not for the first time – at the President’s right-hand man Martin Selmayr, who once described his relationship with his boss as follows: “Juncker is the good guy and I’m the bad guy. That’s how it is.”
However, the self-described “bad guy” denied to me me on Twitter that he leaked anything, and suggested it was an attempt to “frame” the European side. This line was echoed by a Commission spokesman later in the day. The only problem with the line, I point out online, is that the FAZ piece refers to what Juncker “told colleagues”, suggesting the leak came from the EU side.
The Commission chief told the BBC this afternoon that he was “ really surprised – if not shocked” about what the German press had been able to report. He insisted that Mrs May “was in good shape [and] not tired”. The Prime Minister has been able to show that herself today when giving MPs her update on how last week’s European Council summit had gone. She spoke of her “ambitious and positive” view of how talks would go, and thought that “the best possible outcome” was still on the table. If she was bothered by another leaked dinner with President Juncker, she didn’t let it show in the Commons. Exchanges are still going, so you can read more about what has been happening on our liveblog.
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