CON­SPIR­ACY IN SMITH SQUARE

Tory rebel Do­minic Grieve in­sists he’s not out to de­stroy Brexit. So what was he do­ing ad­dress­ing a se­cre­tive meet­ing in the EU’s Lon­don HQ of those plot­ting to re­verse it?

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Jack Doyle Ex­ec­u­tive Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor Turn to Page 6

TORY rebel Do­minic Grieve was ac­cused of ‘sup­ping with the devil’ last night af­ter he held se­cret talks with avowed en­e­mies of Brexit.

He was spot­ted slip­ping into the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s Smith Square HQ in Lon­don yes­ter­day for a pri­vate meet­ing

of cam­paign­ers set on re­vers­ing the re­sult of the ref­er­en­dum.

At­ten­dees in­cluded Tony Blair’s for­mer spin doc­tor Alas­tair Camp­bell and Tory and Lib Dem peers who have re­belled over Brexit. Also

were lead­ers of Peo­ple’s Vote, which cam­paigns for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, Open Bri­tain, the suc­ces­sor or­gan­i­sa­tion to the of­fi­cial Re­main cam­paign, and Best for Bri­tain, the anti-Brexit group backed by fi­nancier Ge­orge Soros.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a lead­ing Tory Leaver, said last night: ‘Do­minic should be care­ful about the com­pany he keeps if he wishes to main­tain his po­si­tion that this is not about stop­ping Brexit.

‘He is some­one I trust and when he says he is not try­ing to frus­trate Brexit I be­lieve him but the peo­ple he is as­so­ci­at­ing with are clear they do want to stop Brexit.

‘If you sup with the devil you should use a long spoon and he is us­ing an egg spoon.’

The Smith Square EU build­ing, which is a short walk from Par­lia­ment, was once Tory Cen­tral Of­fice and the scene of Margaret Thatcher’s elec­tion tri­umph of 1979. But it was sold to the EU in 2007 and is now called Europe House.

An agenda for the ‘ Where Next for Brexit?’ meet­ing was marked ‘in con­fi­dence’ but seen by the Mail. It says: ‘This in­for­mal fo­rum con­nects the main op­er­a­tional UK pro-EU or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als and meets un­der the Chatham House Rule.’

This rule holds that the dis­cus­sions should not be made pub­lic.

Mr Grieve was ex­pected to talk about the EU With­drawal Bill, which caused par­lia­men­tary tur­moil this week.

The QC and for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral led a group of 13 Tory MPs who forced Theresa May into mak­ing con­ces­sions on Tues­day even­ing.

De­spite in­sist­ing they are not try­ing to re­verse Brexit, the MPs are threat­en­ing to back a House of Lords amend­ment that would make it im­pos­si­ble to leave the EU with­out a ‘deal’. It would also put Par­lia­ment in charge of the fi­nal stage of the ne­go­ti­a­tions. Min­utes

‘They will stop at noth­ing’

af­ter Mr Grieve left yes­ter­day’s meet­ing the par­tic­i­pants started plan­ning on a cam­paign for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum to stop Brexit.

Mr Rees-Mogg said it was ‘com­pletely im­proper’ for the Com­mis­sion to al­low its build­ings ‘to be used in a do­mes­tic po­lit­i­cal con­tro­versy’.

‘We fund the EU and it should not use our money to in­ter­fere in our do­mes­tic af­fairs,’ he said.

Sir Bill Cash, the chair­man of the Com­mons Euro­pean scru­tiny com­mit­tee, said: ‘It’s clear that Mr Grieve is con­sort­ing with those peo­ple who are all in­tent on re­vers­ing Brexit.

‘It makes his claim that he is try­ing to be help­ful to the Gov­ern­ment trans­par­ent nonsense.’

For­mer Tory leader Iain Dun­can Smith said: ‘I’m sur­prised if he is meet­ing with a whole load of peo­ple whose sole pur­pose is to stop Brexit when he has said it is not his in­ten­tion to do so.’

A se­nior min­is­te­rial source said: ‘This is clear ev­i­dence that a cer­tain group of MPs will stop at noth­ing to keep us in the EU.’

Mr Grieve said it was ‘rub­bish’ to sug­gest the meet­ing re­vealed his true in­ten­tions. He also claimed the in­vi­ta­tion was made ‘a long time ago’.

‘They asked me to go along and ex­plain some­thing about what was go­ing on in Par­lia­ment, just as I go and talk to all sorts of groups,’ Mr Grieve said.

‘If I was in­vited by an au­di­ence that was in­ter­ested in the is­sue that were Leavers I would go as well. We live in a demo­cratic coun­try where peo­ple en­gage with all sorts of peo­ple.’

The rev­e­la­tions came on an­other day of drama in West­min­ster dur­ing which:

Theresa May was locked in talks with Mr Grieve and other Tory rebels over their de­mand that MPs should be given the power to ‘direct’ Brexit pol­icy, which crit­ics claim could lead to the UK stay­ing in the EU;

Lead­ing Con­ser­va­tive Re­mainer Anna Soubry warned MPs it was time to tell leave vot­ers to ‘suck it up’ and ac­cept that Bri­tain was stay­ing in the sin­gle mar­ket and would have to ac­cept free move­ment;

Six Labour MPs re­signed from the front bench to vote to keep Bri­tain in the sin­gle mar­ket, as Jeremy Cor­byn suf­fered a ma­jor re­bel­lion over the is­sue;

Re­ports claimed that Miss Soubry and Labour MP Chuka Umunna have used cross-party anti-Brexit talks to dis­cuss the for­ma­tion of a new party called Back To­gether;

Euroscep­tic Tory Daniel Kawczyn­ski urged vot­ers to ‘ hold to ac­count’ rebel MPs try­ing to thwart Brexit;

CBI chief Paul Drech­sler warned parts of the car in­dus­try would be­come ‘ex­tinct’ un­less the UK stayed in the cus­toms union.

Mr Camp­bell was seen en­ter­ing Europe House shortly af­ter 10.30am yes­ter­day. Mr Grieve fol­lowed just be­fore 10.45am. Shortly af­ter­wards came Tom Bald­win, who was Labour ex-leader Ed Miliband’s spin doc­tor and now works for Peo­ple’s Vote, and James McGrory, the for­mer com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor at Stronger In, the of­fi­cial Re­main cam­paign, who now works for Open Bri­tain.

Mr Grieve left just be­fore mid­day. Most of the other par­tic­i­pants left around 1pm, in­clud­ing Baroness Alt­mann, the anti-Brexit Tory peer, Pa­tience Wheatcroft, the Tory peer and for­mer news­pa­per ed­i­tor who has backed a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum and has ar­gued ‘we have to stop Brexit’, and the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman in the Lords, Sarah Lud­ford.

They were joined by AC Grayling, the philoso­pher who has said it was wrong to ‘nor­malise ac­cep­tance of leav­ing the EU’.

The meet­ing re­veals that sep­a­rate Re­mainer groups are co­or­di­nat­ing to try to stop Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the EU. On Tue­sp­re­sent

‘Came in huff­ing and puff­ing’

day night Mr Grieve told the Com­mons he was not try­ing to pre­vent Brexit but ‘le­git­i­mately look­ing at the de­tail of one of the most com­plex le­gal and po­lit­i­cal ex­er­cises in which we have ever en­gaged in peace­time’.

In an in­ter­view with The Guardian last month, he backed an­other na­tional poll to ask the pub­lic ‘is

this what you re­ally want?’ but also claimed he was ‘not work­ing to pre­cip­i­tate it’.

Last night he re­belled against the Gov­ern­ment to vote in favour of Bri­tain join­ing the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area, which would mean stay­ing in the sin­gle mar­ket.

A Com­mis­sion spokesman said it did not or­gan­ise the Smith Square meet­ing and sug­gested it may have been booked by an MEP who can use rooms in the build­ing for free.

The spokesman con­firmed that no Com­mis­sion of­fi­cials at­tended the meet­ing.

A spokesman for ‘ Where Next for Brexit’ said: ‘ Pro-Euro­peans meet­ing to dis­cuss Europe and invit­ing pro-Euro­pean guest speak­ers should not sur­prise any­one.

‘It is ex­tra­or­di­nary that this should be re­garded as a news story.’

Mr Umunna’s calls for a new party, re­ported by the New States­man, were made at a meet­ing of a ProRe­main grass­roots cam­paign group.

A source told the magazine: ‘ He came in, huff­ing and puff­ing, say­ing that he’d had enough of Labour’.

Miss Soubry has re­port­edly told fel­low MPs ‘Chuka and I are look­ing at what the fu­ture brings’.

HOW very re­veal­ing that Tory Do­minic Grieve’s first port of call yes­ter­day morn­ing, af­ter he’d held the Gov­ern­ment to ran­som over the Brexit Bill, was a gath­er­ing of ex­trem­ist Re­moan­ers at the Lon­don of­fices of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

What is it the for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral fails to un­der­stand about democ­racy, loy­alty to party and coun­try – and the word ‘leave’?

In­ter­viewed on Tues­day, the in­ef­fa­bly self­sat­is­fied Mr Grieve (who is half-French) in­sisted his con­tin­u­ing threats of re­bel­lion over the Brexit leg­is­la­tion had noth­ing to do with forc­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

No, he just wanted to ‘man­age what is an ex­tremely risky and com­plex process as well as pos­si­ble’. Or so he claimed.

What, then, ex­plains his morn­ing visit to Europe House, West­min­ster (and how bit­terly ironic that this used to be Con­ser­va­tive Cen­tral Of­fice in the days of that great Bri­tish pa­triot Margaret Thatcher, who stood no nonsense from the EU)?

At this con­fi­den­tial meet­ing – whose pro­ceed­ings were re­layed within min­utes to City fixer Roland Rudd, known as the ‘God­father of Re­main’ – there were only three items on the draft agenda: an in­tro­duc­tion; the speech by Mr Grieve; and an up­date of progress in cam­paign­ing for… wait for it… a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

As for the guest list, this reads like a roll­call of the coun­try’s most em­bit­tered cru­saders against Brexit: Alas­tair Camp­bell, liar- in- chief to Tony Blair; Baroness ‘we must stop Brexit’ Wheatcroft ( who, irony of ironies, used to be a pas­sion­ate Brex­i­teer); Tom Bald­win, Ed Miliband’s foul-mouthed spin doc­tor...

There, too, was philoso­pher AC Grayling, who has said the EU is as ‘ brave and beau­ti­ful as any­thing in Euro­pean his­tory’; and Baroness Alt­mann, who has re­peat­edly voted against the Gov­ern­ment on key Brexit votes, while threat­en­ing to leave the Tory Party if it pur­sues a ‘hard’ Brexit.

If Mr Grieve wants only to make a suc­cess of Brexit, why is he con­sort­ing with peo­ple like this on EU diplo­matic premises?

Like all Tory can­di­dates, he fought the elec­tion on a man­i­festo pledge to hon­our the ref­er­en­dum, with a spe­cific prom­ise to pull out of the EU’s sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union. Yet here he is, meet­ing those in­volved in a highly or­gan­ised project to sab­o­tage the will of the Bri­tish peo­ple.

We don’t deny Mr Grieve his right to his be­liefs. But we do ques­tion his loy­alty, his com­mit­ment to democ­racy – and, most of all, his claim that his pro­posed changes to the Brexit Bill are not in­tended to scup­per our de­par­ture.

Exit: Mr Camp­bell leaves the meet­ing

Talks: Do­minic Grieve in Smith Square

Elec­tion vic­tory: Margaret and De­nis Thatcher in Smith Square in 1979

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.