Theresa May’s Chief Negotiator in Brussels, Olly Robbins, has embarrassingly been overheard talking about MPs having a choice ahead of backing a Brexit deal or there being a significant delay to the UK exiting the European Union.
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ITV News heard Robbins talking in a bar, apparently “speaking in such a manner that you didn’t have to listen hard to hear him”, Pretty Mickey Mouse stuff, unless the intention was for journalists to hear him of course.
Angus Walker, who was listening in, heard Robbins claim that the options set to be put on the table amount to either Theresa May’s deal being supported or talks being extended.
This effectively would mean the British government ruling out No Deal and destroying the UK’s hand in negotiations or the incentive for the European Union to grant concessions.
“In the end they will probably just give us an extension,” he was heard saying. This goes against what May has said publicly, promising time and time again that the UK will leave the EU on 29th March.
Robbins has been a controversial character, seen as being far too pro-EU. The Sunday Times reported in October that “Robbins appeared ready to sign the UK up to a deal that would have seen Britain agree to join a Customs Union with no end date”, What a joke.
Brexiteers responded last night, with Nigel Farage saying: “As I have said before, Olly Robbins represents the civil service fifth column in our country. He should be sacked immediately for a combination of treachery and incompetence.”
Former Brexit Minister Steve Baker had his say too: “As a consummate civil servant, Olly Robbins is likely to be appalled by this story. Officials advise. Ministers decide. What matters ultimately is the policy of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.
“If the PM decides we are leaving on 29th March, deal or No Deal, that will happen.”
If May is to secure any significant changes to her deal, she must now make clear that she will oversee a WTO Brexit if Brussels refuse to budge. The clock is ticking and a delay to Brexit would shatter trust in what the Prime Minister and government have long promised: the UK leaving on 29th March.