MPs have criticised the anonymous Number 10 adviser for their ‘tone and rhetoric’ with calls for Boris Johnson to intervene.
Following a statement on the government’s Brexit readiness former minister and Tory MP Andrew Mitchell asked Michael Gove about the nameless briefing remarks which appeared on the Spectator website.
He asked: “Is he proud of the tone and character of quasi-official briefings and language coming out of Number 10. Does he think it is helpful?”
Gove responded by urging figures in public life to use language which “shows our respect for differing points of view even as we hold robustly to our own”.
He replied: “I think it is important for all of us in public life, whether we’re appearing here at the despatch box or working for government ministers, or for opposition figures, to use language which shows our respect for differing points of view even as we hold robustly to our own.”
The overnight briefing claimed that any attempt by the EU to prevent Britain leaving at the end of October would be treated as “hostile interference” in UK politics.
It was said to have been made clear that defence and security co-operation with the EU would be affected if it tried to keep Britain in against the will of the government.
“We will make clear privately and publicly that countries which oppose delay will go the front of the queue for future co-operation – co-operation on things both within and outside EU competences” the source said.
“Those who support delay will go to the bottom of the queue. Supporting delay will be seen by this government as hostile interference in domestic politics, and over half of the public will agree with us.”
Chair of the Commons home affairs select committee Yvette Cooper went further than other MPs, calling for Downing Street advisers who “threaten that the UK will withdraw security co-operation if Europe does not do what the prime minister wants” to be sacked.
She said: “It’s reported that a Downing Street adviser has threatened that the UK will withdraw security co-operation if Europe does not do what the prime minister wants.
“Does he agree that given the common threats that we face – extremism, terrorism, trafficking, organised crime – that is extremely irresponsible and dangerous?”
She added: “Will he and the prime minister take some responsibility for removing anyone who pursues that course and argument from Number 10 Downing Street, because frankly when national security is at stake we desperately need some advisers, some ministers and a prime minister who are capable of behaving like grown-ups.”
Gove said the home secretary has written to the EU Commission saying the UK wishes to “continue co-operating in a number of areas”.
He added: “The EU themselves have said that they don’t wish to continue co-operation.”
Former cabinet minister Amber Rudd said Boris Johnson’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings appeared to be behind the briefing.
“It reveals that there doesn’t appear to be an actual plan at all,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“Instead, what they’re doing is angrily, apparently, begging the EU not to support a delay which will be required because of the position that parliament has taken.
“And I urgently would ask the Prime Minister to take control of this and give us some clarity and some dignity and diplomacy on what is taking place.”