Fury as Boris Johnson accuses rebel alliance MPs of ‘collaboration’ with foreign governments over Brexit

An angry Dominic Grieve has branded the accusation ‘a lie’ – and blamed Dominic Cummings

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 01 October 2019 19:50
Boris Johnson claims stop no-deal Brexit MPs may have got legal advice from abroad

Boris Johnson has made the extraordinary claim that MPs behind the legislation to block a no-deal Brexit may have received “legal advice” from foreign governments.

The prime minister defended a weekend briefing from a No 10 source attacking “foreign collusion”, saying: “There is a legitimate question to be asked.”

When it was put to Mr Johnson that he was accusing British MPs of “collaboration” – a word normally used about a traitor, working with an enemy – he replied: “Correct.”

The accusation has triggered a furious response from Dominic Grieve, the former Conservative MP and key architect of the Benn Act, who has branded it “a lie”.

“Apparently our phones are going to be seized and checked to establish the heinousness of our actions,” Mr Grieve said, of the original “collusion” claim.

He blamed Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s controversial chief aide, adding: “This is a classic example of the sort of corruption of our political system which is now coming in at the hands, I think, of Mr Cummings.”

The controversy was kicked off by a Mail on Sunday story, in which a Downing Street source alleged ‘collusion” and claimed the MPs involved could have received foreign funds.

It has now been given oxygen by the prime minister himself, who did not dispute that it was believed “foreign governments instructed” the MPs behind the Benn Act.

“We have no knowledge of how it was produced,” Mr Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Arguing the legislation, passed after an emergency grab of the Commons timetable, had not been given “normal parliamentary scrutiny”, he added: “No one knows by whose legal advice it was drawn up.

“With great respect to all my parliamentary colleagues we do need to work out how we scrutinise these things properly.”

Oliver Letwin, a second exiled Tory MP, sacked for his Brexit revolt, and Labour’s Hilary Benn, worked most closely with Mr Grieve on drafting the Benn Act last month.

It will compel Mr Johnson to seek an Article 50 extension to delay Brexit, to avoid a crash out on 31 October, unless a bill has been passed by parliament by 19 October.

The prime minister has insisted he will not do that – without explaining how he will avoid breaking the law and the ultimate threat of being sent to prison.

Speaking before Mr Johnson’s interview, Mr Grieve said: “There has been no collusion with foreign powers.”

Laughing at the idea that France would know “how to draft an English statute”, he added: “You can and ask the clerks of the House of Commons, which is what I seem to remember we did, and you also go and ask lawyers.”

Angrily denouncing the No 10 source’s threat to investigate him as ‘the final lie”, Mr Grieve said: “We are not quite in a police state yet.

“They don’t have the power to investigate anything. I’m not their employee – I’m a member of parliament.”

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