Prominent Brexiteer Nigel Farage has come under fire after claims emerged that he was lobbying right-wing EU leaders to block any delay to Brexit by ruling out an extension to Article 50.
Allies of the former UKIP leader, who now sits in the European Parliament as a ‘Brexit Party’ member, have been touting their credentials among Eurosceptics across the other 27 member states in a bid to halt an extension to Article 50.
That extension has been mooted by some in Westminster as a bid to buy more time to potentially unlock the stalemate in the House of Commons, where Theresa May’s Brexit deal was rejected for a second time earlier this week.
Any extension to the Article 50 process is likely to only last until May, avoiding the need for Britain to take part in the 2019 elections to the European Parliament.
All 27 other EU member states would need to ratify the extension, with some hard Brexiteers hoping that populist governments in Hungary or Italy will veto the process.
Andy Wigmore, a key ally of Mr Farage, tweeted a plea for Italy’s populist anti-immigration Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini to block an extension.
He wrote: “Time for @matteosalvinimi to help us and veto an extension to A50 - Italy can be hero’s (sic) to the 17.4 million who voted to leave.”
Salvini has formed a coalition Government with strong eurosceptic tendencies, but has faced questions over his Lega party’s links to Russia.
Another ally, Aron Banks, tweeted: “The British media often miss the point that @Nigel_Farage has spent 20 years forging contacts with Eurosceptic European groups some of whom are now in power ! We may need a little help from our continental friends on article 50 extension @matteosalvinimi & others.”
It was also reported that a delegation of Conservative MPs had travelled to Warsaw to appeal to the Government of Poland to block the extension.
Mr Farage, who left UKIP over its embrace of far-right conspiracy theorist figures like Tommy Robinson and Paul Watson, told the BBC: “I have stated already. I will do my best to obtain a veto.”
Guy Verhofstadt, the MEP charged with leading Brexit negotiations from the European , accused Mr Farage of conspiring to ‘destroy the EU from within.’
SNP MP Stewart McDonald wrote: “Putin’s friends in Europe pulling the strings on Brexit should be a chilling wake up call. Article 50 should be revoked in its entirety.”