Conservative MEPs are hiring new staff to start in Brussels on 1 November, it has emerged – despite Boris Johnson’s pledge to leave the EU at the end of October “do or die”.
The job posting appears to be at odds with the prime minister’s Brexit pledge because the UK would lose all its MEPs on 31 October if it was followed through. The job, for a so-called “stagiaire” or intern, asks for a “committed supporter of the Conservative party” to work for the party’s parliamentary group in the EU capital.
The Tories were ridiculed by opposition MEPs, who said the planned hiring showed even Mr Johnson’s own parliamentarians had no confidence that he would stick to his word.
“It is ironic that the Conservatives are trying to recruit an intern to join their team and ‘nurture the relationship between the EU and the Conservative Party’,” said Lib Dem MEP Caroline Voaden.
“If they want a good relationship they should think more carefully about the damage they are causing by blaming the EU for their own failures of political negotiation. Could this be a sign that even Tory MEPs don’t believe the government bluster that we will be leaving on 31 October?”
Despite being a hire for the Tories’ group rather than the party, the job advert specifies a start date of 1 November and says candidates should have “active political experience, perhaps in CCHQ, in a constituency office, in campaigning locally, or in student politics”.
The party denies that the hire represents an admission that Brexit will not happen and says the intern will in fact be tasked with ”maintaining ties” between the Tory party and their former European Parliament group after Brexit.
It also asks for applicants to have “a basic knowledge of the European Union; have good writing skills who can summarise discussions and reports”.
The role is described as “a great opportunity to learn more about the work of the European Parliament and the European Union, gaining practical experience in a demanding political office”.
Labour MEP Julie Ward told The Independent: “It is good to see the European Conservative Party is preparing to, not only respect the Safeguard Act, but is planning for the UK’s inevitable extension.
“This is more than can be said for the Johnson regime, who are floating the idea of not respecting the law while still churning out meaningless soundbites of being adequately prepared for Brexit when in reality we have seen no coherent plan whatsoever with them keeping the public, parliament and the EU Institutions in the dark.”
The UK will leave the EU on 31 October if there is no extension of the Article 50 deadline, which would have to be unanimously agreed by the 27 other EU leaders.
While parliament has legislated to force Mr Johnson to ask for an extension, Downing Street has suggested the prime minister will ignore the so-called Benn Act, perhaps using a loophole.
A Conservative MEPs spokesperson denied that the role amounted to the party planning for a delay to Brexit.
“The story confuses the ECR Group – with 62 MEPs from 15 countries – with its delegation of British Conservative MEPs,” the spokesperson said.
“The ECR Group is recruiting an intern from the UK as part of an ongoing scheme to maintain ties now and post-brexit with the Conservative Party – as the advert makes clear.”
It is common for party workers to be employed by their European Parliament group, however, and the advert specifies a UK Tory.
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