Still the dam holding back the Prime Minister’s anger held. But it finally burst yesterday after Mr Barnier set out the EU’s negotiating position, which appeared to be more a series of orders to Mrs May to step into line.
In a clear swipe at Mrs May, Mr Barnier echoed the words of Mrs Merkel by saying some people “have created the illusion that Brexit will have no material impact on our lives, that negotiations can be concluded painlessly. That is not the truth”.
He said Britain would not be “punished” for leaving the EU but the UK would have to “close the account” in a “single financial settlement” which “will cover all the financial relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union – all the commitments entered into as a member of the union”.
The size of the settlement should be “incontestable”, he said, and if Britain did not pay the bill there could be “political and legal problems”.
Mr Barnier said the consequences of Britain leaving without paying would be “explosive”. A landslide victory for Mrs May in the general election “will not change anything as regards the position and determination of the European Union” and it was “high time” for negotiations to start because “the clock is ticking”.
Then came his final flourish as he smugly patronised the hill-walking Prime Minister by advising her to “learn to put one foot in front of the other”.
For Mrs May, enough was enough. As she left for Buckingham Palace for a meeting with the Queen, reporters were briefed that she would make an unscheduled speech outside Downing Street.