British Prime Minister Theresa May accused the European Union on Wednesday of seeking to affect the outcome of the June 8 national election by issuing threats over Brexit.
May, whose Conservative Party has a lead over the main opposition Labour Party in the polls, has framed the early election as an opportunity to strengthen her hand in upcoming negotiations on Britain's exit from the EU.
Speaking in front of her Downing Street office after visiting Queen Elizabeth to mark the dissolution of parliament, the formal start of the election campaign, May said there were some in Brussels who did not want to see Brexit talks succeed.
Over the weekend a German newspaper gave a damning account of a dinner last week between May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, reporting that he had told May that Brexit could not be a success.
"Britain's negotiating position in Europe has been misrepresented in the continental press, the European Commission's negotiating stance has hardened, threats against Britain have been issued by European politicians and officials," May said.
"All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election."
May's comments came after Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that the negotiations on Britain's divorce from the EU would not be quick or painless.
Tensions were further raised by a Financial Times report suggesting the EU was drawing up an exit bill for Britain of up to 100 billion euros ($110 billion).
In Brussels, Barnier refused to give an overall figure but said there was "no punishment" for Britain. Any payment would be "only about settling the accounts" after four decades of membership.
But he warned: "Some have created the illusion that Brexit would have no material impact on our lives, or that negotiations can be concluded quickly and painlessly. This is not the case."
He warned that the "clock is ticking" for a settlement, saying there had been "10 months of uncertainty" since Britain narrowly voted in June to leave the EU, the first country to do so.
Barnier's proposed negotiating mandate closely follows the political guidelines unanimously agreed at a summit on Saturday by the leaders of the other 27 EU nations without Britain.
It demands that before talks on a future trade deal can start, Britain must first settle divorce terms on money, the rights of EU citizens living in Britain, and the border with the Republic of Ireland.