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Wednesday 13 February 2019

Unelected Europhile civil servant Olly Robbins has been overheard in a Brussels bar boasting about plans to delay Brexit if Theresa May fails to get her deal through parliament. The report stands in stark contrast to yesterday’s news that May was increasingly leaning towards a No Deal – not to mention her constant vow to leave the EU on March 29 – and exposes a huge rift between the machinery of the Conservative party and the inner cabal surrounding the prime minister.

Robbins was overheard in a hotel bar following an event at the residence of the UK ambassador to Brussels, loudly proclaiming that the plan is to corner MPs weeks before the Brexit deadline by making “them believe that… extension is possible but if they don’t vote for the deal then the extension is a long one…”

He also let slip the true intention of the Northern Ireland backstop. In the media it has constantly been reported as a safety net, intended to come into force only if an alternative arrangement cannot be found. But Robbins was heard proclaiming that “we agreed a bridge but it came out a safety net”.

Eurosceptics have long been suspicious of Robbins, who headed up a Europhile student group during his days at Oxford, and confirmation that he sees the hated backstop as a bridge to a similar permanent arrangement only cements their fears. It’s no wonder he’s incurred the justified wrath of Brexiteers like Nigel Farage, who last night said he “represents the civil service fifth column in our country. He should be sacked immediately for a combination of treachery and incompetence”.

But while May’s chief Brexit negotiator boasts about plans to kick the can down the road yet again, her Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay sang quite a different tune on Sky News this morning – and even Bank of England governor Mark Carney is changing his tune on national independence.

Carney, who has been trying to tip the scales against Brexit with partisan political comments for years, has admitted that Brexit could pave the way for “a new form of international cooperation and cross-border commerce built on a better balance of local and supranational authorities”.

His intervention came just hours before new economic stats shows that inflation is down while wages are soaring just a month before we’re supposed to be quitting the crumbling EU. So much for Project Fear…

Meanwhile Barclay reiterated the obvious legal position that, parliament having voted to trigger Article 50, the UK will leave the EU on March 29 if no deal has been agreed as the “default option”. He went on to explain that it would be “a very odd message” to tell Brits that they need to vote for MEPs in another round of European elections three years after a decisive vote to Leave.

It would indeed, and it would make plain the fact that we are being governed by an out of touch political elite, backed by unaccountable figures like Olly Robbins, who do not care what the people want. Trust in our democratic institutions would be damaged irreparably by any further Brexit sabotage, so let’s hope MPs have the good sense to accept a clean Brexit on March 29.