LONDON Britain's Brexit minister David Davis said on Friday that European Union leaders in Brussels were trying to get him sacked, after critical accounts of a meeting between British and EU negotiators were leaked to media.
Last week, Prime Minister Theresa May accused some in the EU of trying to influence Britain's national election after reports in the German press described a stormy meeting between her Brexit team, lead by Davis, and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
“All these stories are briefing against me trying to get me sacked - which of course is a compliment," Davis told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. “If they don’t want me across the table, there is a reason for that – it is in Britain’s interests, not theirs.”
Juncker was quoted as saying he was "leaving Downing Street 10 times more sceptical than I was before", in an account which suggested that he and May did not see eye to eye on a range of issues about Britain's EU exit.
Britain and the EU are due to begin talks on the terms of their divorce next month, with both sides prepared for tough negotiations over issues like how much money the government will have to pay to Brussels to meet its outstanding commitments.
The perceived bust-up has proven valuable to May's campaign for re-election at home, allowing her to paint Brussels as a belligerent antagonist that only she is capable of standing up to.
Davis said the incident showed Juncker was wary of an election result that would give May a strong domestic mandate to pursue her Brexit plan in Brussels, describing the spat as opening skirmishes in the talks.
"I think to be honest he has now learned his lesson - he is not going to be meddling in British politics any more or at least if he does he will get the same reaction,” Davis said.
(Reporting by William James; editing by Stephen Addison)