The Latest: UK PM: Some in EU trying to influence election

Markets Associated Press

The Latest on Britain's withdrawal from the European Union (all times local):

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5 p.m.

Prime Minister Theresa May has hit back at reports that European Union officials consider Britain ill-prepared for Brexit talks, accusing EU officials of trying to influence the outcome of Britain's national election.

May says "there are some in Brussels who do not want these talks to succeed, who do not want Britain to prosper."

Speaking after meeting Queen Elizabeth II to officially start the election campaign, May said the EU's negotiating stance had hardened and some European officials had made "threats" against Britain.

She said these were "deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on June 8."

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3:25 p.m.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he regrets that details of his reportedly tense meeting with British Prime Minister Theresa May last week were leaked to the press.

Asked Wednesday whether he was bothered that news of the private dinner talks was made public, Juncker said only: "Yes."

A German report said that Juncker left the meeting saying he was "10 times more skeptical than I was before" that negotiations will succeed. May dismissed the report as "Brussels gossip."

May also vowed Tuesday to be a "bloody difficult woman" in Brexit talks with the bloc, after EU officials accused the U.K. of failing to grasp the complexity of the task ahead as Britain leaves the bloc.

Juncker said: "I have noted that she is a tough lady," adding: "I like her as a person."

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12:10 p.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator has compared Britain's divorce from the bloc to a tough climb up a mountain — and appealed to Britain's prime minister to join him in keeping their eyes on the summit.

Drawing an analogy between the thorny negotiations and hiking, Michel Barnier said Wednesday: "We learn to put one foot in front of the other, because the path can be steep, the path can be rocky and tiring and long, but we should always keep our eye on the summit. That's what I've learned hiking in the mountains."

British Prime Minister Theresa May say she decided to call an early election while walking in the mountains — a passion Barnier said they share.

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11:55 a.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator says the elections in Britain will produce a more stable, long-term partner to negotiate the U.K.'s departure with — but it will have no impact on the EU's position.

Michel Barnier said Wednesday that the government formed after Britain's June 8 polls "will have a longevity and stability for five years that the current government does not have."

But he said "these elections change nothing" in the EU's determination to protect its interests.

Barnier said "we will defend the interests of the 27 (remaining) member states and the single market."

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11:45 a.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator says the bloc has made contingency plans in case a deal cannot be reached on Britain's departure but that he is aiming to clinch a deal by March 2019.

Michel Barnier said Wednesday that "we are prepared for all options. But the option I am working on is getting an agreement."

No country has ever left the EU so the exit negotiations are entering uncharted waters. Some British politicians have suggested that London might be better off walking away from the table than accepting a bad deal.

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11:35 a.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator says time is running out for Britain to reach an agreement with its EU partners on leaving the bloc.

Michel Barnier said Wednesday that "time is short, very short. Days are going by."

Barnier told reporters that Britain's relations with its 27 European partners once it leaves will center "around a free trade agreement, but it's not the moment to talk about it immediately."

Britain launched two years of exit talks on March 29 and is set to leave in 2019.

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11:20 a.m.

The European Union's Brexit negotiator says Britain must settle the financial debts it owes the bloc before talks on its future relations with its European partners can begin.

Michel Barnier said Wednesday that "we have to settle the account, not more not less."

Unveiling details of his negotiating scope for the talks, Barnier insisted that the bill "is not a punishment."

He said the EU's budget for the next few years had been decided together with Britain, which should pay their agreed contribution.

He said: "We have decided these programs together ... Engagements were undertaken and they have to be honored. It's a question of responsibility."

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10:50 a.m.

The European Union is making it legally impossible for Britain to tackle key issues like trade with its European partners until its debts have been settled.

A draft of the mandate outlining how the union will negotiate Britain's departure limits the remit of EU Brexit point-man Michel Barnier to things like safeguards for EU citizens in Britain and London's financial obligations. The draft is being made public Wednesday.

The EU lists another priority as keeping people and goods moving smoothly across the border between Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K., and EU member Ireland.

EU states would have to approve progress on those issues before Barnier can start negotiating the outline of the bloc's future relations with Britain after it leaves in 2019.