The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator hosted three prominent Remainers at a meeting in Brussels yesterday.
Veteran Tory Ken Clarke, former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour grandee Lord Adonis joined Michel Barnier at the headquarters of the European Commission.
The meeting prompted fears that ‘the unholy trinity’ were trying to interfere with Brexit talks.
Mr Barnier has also talked to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Brussels insisted Mr Clarke and his colleagues had requested the meeting but none of the three would say what they had hoped to discuss.
Despite publishing a book called How to Stop Brexit, Mr Clegg insisted he was not trying to halt negotiations.
‘If only it were that easy,’ he said. ‘We want to get a better understanding of the situation.’
Lord Adonis, who has shared a ‘game plan for how to stop Brexit’, also claimed the trio were ‘in a serious listening mode’. Once an education minister under Tony Blair, the peer is now head of the £100billion National Infrastructure Commission.
Ken Clarke, Nick Clegg and Lord Adonis (left to right) were in Brussels to meet with EU officials yesterday – although all three refused to disclose why they had asked for a meeting
Mr Clarke joked that he was in Brussels to ‘talk about cricket’.
A prominent critic of the Government’s Brexit strategy, the former Cabinet minister denied the trip was a further rebellion and said it was ‘not against Government policy to visit Brussels’.
Former Ukip leader and MEP Nigel Farage said: ‘It’s like an unholy trinity going down and desperate to undermine the democratic Brexit vote. Especially so, as Clegg has no mandate. That Michel Barnier is even meeting them shows those in Brussels cannot be trusted in these negotiations at all.’
Theresa May’s former chief of staff Nick Timothy suggested the trio would spend the meeting ‘telling Barnier Brexit can be overturned, which is what these three want’. He said the intervention undermined Britain’s negotiating position.
The trio also met Pierre Moscovici, the EU commissioner for economic and financial affairs.
The meetings will heighten concerns on both sides about an impasse that has seen talks grind to a halt. Brussels insists Britain can negotiate only with Mr Barnier and his team, with officials expressing frustration at Mrs May’s attempts to lobby EU leaders individually.
Before an EU summit earlier this month, the Prime Minister undertook a diplomatic push involving conversations with some of the bloc’s most powerful figures.
But diplomats said the move had angered many, claiming Mrs May privately gave promises that have not been reinforced at the negotiating table.
As well as two meetings with Mr Corbyn, Mr Barnier has held discussions with Labour’s Brexit chief Sir Keir Starmer and with Yvette Cooper.
His increasing contact with the party reflects concerns about the stability of the Conservatives under Mrs May and the ability to see Brexit laws voted through Parliament. European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also raised eyebrows when he hosted his ‘good friend’ Mr Blair in Brussels for the second time this year.
A European Commission spokesman said that Mr Barnier’s door was ‘always open for people who want to speak to him and his team across the political spectrum and from all walks of life’.
- HSBC has become the latest bank to scale back warnings of post-Brexit job moves.
Bosses had said 1,000 staff would be shifted to Paris but yesterday stressed they had no intention of rushing to act. It follows similar climbdowns by JP Morgan, Deutsche and UBS.
Chief executive Stuart Gulliver said: ‘We’re going to wait as long as we possibly can to see what the outcome of the negotiations is.’