Remainer Dominic Grieve was spotted last night visiting the European Commission’s London headquarters in what has been dubbed a secret meeting of Brexit rebels.
He was joined by Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campell, Remainer peers, and representatives for pro-EU groups People’s Vote, Open Britain and Best for Britain.
The agenda of the meeting, called ‘Where Next For Brexit?’, was private, was was seen by the Daily Mail.
It read: “This informal forum connects the main operational UK pro-EU organisations and individuals and meets under the Chatham House Rule.”
The rule means the proceedings should be private.
Lord Falconer and Julia Hartley-Brewer clash on air
Julia Hartley-Brewer questioned on the breakfast show whether there was a “plot to stop Brexit”, and was met with an angry response from former Justice Secretary and Labour peer Lord Falconer.
“Are you not allowed to speak to the European Commission, is that against the law?” he retorted.
“The idea that it’s illegal to go and talk to the European Commission seems such nonsense to me.
It’s an overwritten, anti-sensible debate, it really sours the debate. Your language, plot, conspiracy, makes the debate so difficult.”
But Brexiteers Iain Duncan-Smith and Jacob Rees-Mogg both believed the meeting was a deliberate attempt by Brussels to derail Brexit negotiations.
Listen to Jacob Rees-Mogg talk to Julia Hartley-Brewer above
“It shouldn’t surprise anybody because the EU has deliberately set out to confound the whole Brexit negotiations,” said Duncan-Smith.
“We haven’t yet even discussed trade arrangements after 14 months of negotiations, they haven’t allowed anyone to get near the idea of what the future relationship will be like.
“This is all calculated to make it difficult for the UK to extricate ourselves.”
Rees-Mogg said it was time for Theresa May to get tough with Brussels.
“It’s really time now at the next negotiations that the Prime Minister says, ‘look you get on now to trade negotiations because we are leaving’, or we literally have to get up and leave the table and prepare for a no-deal Brexit,” he said.
He added that the European Commission should not be getting involved in “domestic politics” and said Dominic Grieve would be seen by Brexiteers as actively trying to bring Brexit to a halt.
Grieve was part of a group of Tory rebels who got the PM to concede to compromises over the EU (Withdrawal) Bill in parliament earlier this week.
“I think Dominic Grieve is an enormously intelligent and able man and knows how things work and if you’re in the company of people who want to stop Brexit, people may think you have some sympathy with that,” said Rees-Mogg.
Grieve told the Press Association the meeting was not “to conspire with anybody” and he’d been invited by a colleague to brief those assembled on how the “dynamics were playing out in Parliament”.