Michel Barnier was told to get ready for the UK to change its mind on Brexit through a fresh referendum in a meeting with pro-EU opposition politicians.
The group of senior SNP, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and Green figures claimed to be envoys of the “resistance” to Brexit at Westminster and told the EU chief negotiator there was no consensus on how the UK should leave the 28-nation bloc.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was joined at the meeting in the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters by Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, Plaid Cymru MP Liz Saville Roberts, and the Green Party MEP Molly Scott Cato.
They told Mr Barnier that opposition parties were working with pro-EU MPs in the Labour Party and Conservative rebels to defeat the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal and force a so-called People’s Vote to give the public a chance to stay in the EU.
In a joint statement, the group said their one-hour meeting with Mr Barnier was “constructive” and claimed the UK’s exit from the EU “must not be assumed”.
“We emphasised that there is a cross-party resistance in Westminster to the destructive Brexit being pursued by the Tories,” the group said. In an attack on Jeremy Corbyn’s lukewarm support for a fresh referendum on EU membership, the group added that “this is being waved through by the Labour frontbench, but no majority exists in Parliament for the current Brexit trajectory.”
We emphasised that there is a cross-party resistance in Westminster to the destructive Brexit being pursued by the ToriesPro-Eu group
The SNP’s Westminster leader has signalled a strengthening of the party’s support for another Brexit referendum in recent days, saying he is prepared to push the issue forward in the Commons if MPs reject the Prime Minister’s deal with Brussels.
Following yesterday’s meeting, Mr Blackford said: “The UK government’s reckless approach to negotiations threatens livelihoods and ignores the clear wishes of the people of Scotland.
“Scotland voted to remain in the EU and we continue to press the UK Government to stay in the Single Market and Customs Union so we can protect jobs and living standards”
Mr Cable said he told Mr Barnier it was “time to start serious contingency planning for a People’s Vote... because MPs who back the People’s Vote are fast forming the biggest and most cohesive bloc in Westminster.”
Mr Barnier was also asked to provide guarantees to UK citizens living in the EU that their rights would be status would be protected even in a no-deal Brexit. “It is simply the right thing to do,” Mr Cable said.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said yesterday that while Labour were open to a second EU referendum, its preference was for a general election because “we are trying to bring the whole country together”. “The country is still divided right down the middle,” he added.