06/05/2017 1:32 AM AEST

Jean-Claude Juncker Upsets Some By Claiming 'English Is Losing Importance In Europe'

Jean-Claude Juncker has joked English is “losing importance” in Europe because of Brexit, in a clear jibe aimed at Theresa May.

As the European Commission president’s relationship with May plumbs new depths, he told a conference in Italy he would give a speech in French because English was “slowly but surely losing importance in Europe”.

It follows the commission leaking a scathing account of Juncker’s meeting with May to the German press and the prime minister claiming EU officials were trying to influence the general election.

On Friday, Juncker said at the start of his speech: “I’m hesitating between English and French.

“But I’ve made my choice, I will express myself in French because slowly but surely English is losing importance in Europe and also because France has an election.”

Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
Jean-Claude Juncker said English was 'losing importance'

His comments were greeted by laughter and applause.

But they incensed many on social media.

Although some seemed to think it was fair enough...

Earlier this week, Theresa May accused the European Union of seeking to influence the result of the UK general election through threats.

In an extraordinary statement on the steps of No.10 Downing Street, the prime minister said her Brexit negotiating position had 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,” she said.

“All of these acts have been deliberately timed to affect the result of the general election that will take place on the 8th of June.”

Details of a meeting between May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, printed in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, suggested the talks were off to a bad start.

May accused “some in Brussels” who “do not want Britain to prosper” of trying to sabotage the Brexit negotiations.

“Whoever wins on the 8th of June will face one overriding task - to get the best possible deal from this United Kingdom from Brexit,” she said.