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Mon, 10 August 2020

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UK would end security co-operation with EU countries who back Brexit delay, warns senior No 10 official

UK would end security co-operation with EU countries who back Brexit delay, warns senior No 10 official
3 min read

The UK would withdraw security co-operation from EU countries which support a Brexit delay, a senior Number 10 official has warned.

The adviser, who is understood to be Dominic Cummings, said talks with Brussels were likely to break down this week and lead to a no-deal scenario.

In a lengthy anonymous briefing to The Spectator, the official suggested Downing Street’s plan to get round the Benn Act is to threaten to punish the remaining 27 countries if they support extending Article 50 beyond October 31.

They wrote that: "So, if talks go nowhere this week, the next phase will require us to set out our view on the Surrender Act.

"The Act imposes narrow duties. Our legal advice is clear that we can do all sorts of things to scupper delay which for obvious reasons we aren’t going into details about."

The official added: "We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future cooperation - cooperation on things both within and outside EU competences.

"Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue."

The article says the official "also made clear that defence and security cooperation will inevitably be affected if the EU tries to keep Britain in against the will of its government".

The Number 10 insider also blames Irish PM Leo Varadkar for the hostile response from the EU to Boris Johnson’s new offering, saying the Taoiseach "doesn’t want to negotiate".

And they explained that the most likely outcome will be an election fought on the basis of "no more delays, get Brexit done immediately". 

They added: "Those who pushed the Benn Act intended to sabotage a deal and they’ve probably succeeded.

“So the main effect of it will probably be to help us win an election by uniting the leave vote and then a no deal Brexit.

“History is full of such ironies and tragedies.”

A Downing Street source did not deny Mr Cummings, the Prime Minister’s most senior adviser, was the author, saying the comments were "the strong view of a senior Number 10 official".

Amber Rudd, the former Tory Cabinet minister, meanwhile said the briefing most likely came from Mr Cummings.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme said the contents sound “angry and desperate”, but as it has not been denied by Number 10 “one can only assume it’s come from the centre, from the Prime Minister’s adviser, and the style of it seems to imply that”.

Ms Rudd, who lost the Conservative whip for helping to the Benn Act pass last month, added: “I think it’s Dominic Cummings, otherwise it would have been heavily denied and heads would have rolled.”

She claimed that the briefing “reveals there isn’t a plan at all” from the PM - other than “angrily begging the EU not to support a delay which will be required”.

In response Lord John Kerr, a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “The briefing emerging from Downing Street has a clear objective - Boris Johnson and the hardline Vote Leave ideologues in Number 10 are trying to dial up the aggressive rhetoric in order to force through their disastrous vision of Brexit.

“The consequences for the country would be severe, with repercussions lasting for years.

“Loose talk of economic conflict and abandoning security cooperation with our friends and allies in Europe is deeply damaging and highly irresponsible.” 

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