EUROPEAN Council president Donald Tusk has claimed “external anti-European forces” meddled in the UK’s Brexit vote.

The politician, who previously served as Poland’s Prime Minister, and who has long been a fierce critic of Russian president, Vladimir Putin, warned that those same forces could interfere in May’s European Parliament elections.

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Tusk told reporters in Austria: “There are external anti-European forces, which are seeking – openly or secretly – to influence the democratic choices of Europeans, as was the case with Brexit and a number of election campaigns across Europe. And it may again be the case with the European elections in May,”

He urged voters to be vigilant for signs of interference. “Do not allow political parties that are funded by external forces, hostile to Europe, to decide on key priorities for the EU, and the new leadership of European institutions,” he said.

Earlier this year, after an 18 month long investigation, the UK Parliament’s Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, called on the British Government to establish an independent investigation into “foreign influence, disinformation, funding, voter manipulation and the sharing of data” in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the 2016 EU referendum and the 2017 general election.

Committee chair Damian Collins warned: “Democracy is at risk from the malicious and relentless targeting of citizens with disinformation and personalised ‘dark adverts’ from unidentifiable sources, delivered through the major social media platforms we use every day.

“Much of this is directed from agencies working in foreign countries, including Russia.”

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Tusk’s comments were in response to an article by Emmanuel Macron, the French President, calling for a “renaissance” of the European Union.

In the 1600 word missive, translated into 24 languages and printed in newspapers across the EU, Macron urged voters to shy away from far-right candidates standing in the European parliament.

The National: France's Emmanuel Macron said Europe was in dangerFrance's Emmanuel Macron said Europe was in danger

“Never since the Second World War has Europe been so essential. Yet never has Europe been in such danger,” he wrote.

“Brexit stands as the symbol of that. It symbolises the crisis of a Europe that has failed to respond to its peoples’ need for protection from the major shocks of the modern world. It also symbolises the European trap.

“The trap lies not in being part of the European Union; the trap is in the lie and the irresponsibility that can destroy it. Who told the British people the truth about their post-Brexit future?

“Who spoke to them about losing access to the EU market? Who mentioned the risks to peace in Ireland of restoring the border? Retreating into nationalism offers nothing; it is rejection without an alternative. And this is the trap that threatens the whole of Europe: the anger mongers, backed by fake news, promise anything and everything.”

The row came as British Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, and the attorney general, Geoffrey Cox, met with Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator last night, as talks stumbled on.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt insisted progress was being made.

He told the BBC’s Today programme: “The signals we are getting are reasonably positive. I don’t want to overstate them because I still think there’s a lot of work to do but I think they do understand that we are being sincere.”

Meanwhile, BMW could move “some or all” of its Mini production to Holland if there’s a no deal Brexit.

A spokesman for the firm said: “We need frictionless trade”.