The Mail on Sunday reported on its front page that No. 10 had launched “a major investigation into alleged links between foreign governments and the MPs behind the ‘Surrender Act’ which could force Boris Johnson to delay Brexit.” The paper claimed “Sources said No. 10 took the unprecedented action after officials received intelligence that the MPs, including former Cabinet Minister Oliver Letwin, had received help drafting the Bill from members of the French Government and the European Union.” On the Today programme, Boris Johnson said “there is a legitimate question to be asked” of the MPs concerned.
In the following days no evidence was produced to substantiate the claim. One of the MPs accused, Dominic Grieve, called the allegations “ridiculous”, adding: “The tone of these statements comes across like the propaganda of a totalitarian state.”
A Cabinet Office spokesperson told me: “There was never such an investigation.”
The No. 10 sources who spoke to The Mail on Sunday were lying. As for The Mail on Sunday, it was spreading fake news. Johnson’s role in this unedifying affair is instructive. On the Today programme, he could and should have taken the opportunity to tell the truth. Instead, he fuelled the smear story with his statement that “there are legitimate questions to be asked.”