Dominic Cummings says EU negotiations are a ‘sham’, according to high-level leaks
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Boris Johnson's chief advisor Dominic Cummings has openly described the government's EU negotiations as a 'sham' in private meetings, according to leaks.
While Number 10 has been briefing the public about meetings to explore amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement with the EU, two "highly-placed" Telegraph sources claimed that Cummings has rubbished the negotiations in private.
The Exit Strategy committee, consisting of the PM and five ministers, formally adopted a plan on July 29 to "run down the clock" to a no-deal cliff edge, according to the paper.
Peter Foster, the newspaper's Europe editor, tweeted that Cummings has called the negotiations a "sham" - a claim which Downing street has vehemently denied.
Foster also reports that the attorney general Geoffrey Cox warned Johnson on August 1 that his insistence on dropping the Northern Irish backstop was a "complete fantasy" and, that this path would lead to crashing out of the EU without a deal.
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The report adds that although the government has tried to reassure concerned Tory backbenchers with talk of "backchannel" discussions with the EU, no real negotiation has been taking place.
EU officials and diplomatic sources are aware they are being "played" on the matter, says the report.
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"It was perhaps telling that the British lobby correspondents were briefed about the new twice-weekly 'talks' before the dates had even been agreed at Commission level," one EU official told the paper. "We know perfectly well we're being played."
Campaigners have long accused the prime minister of not taking the negotiations seriously.
WATCH: 'It's a sham': campaigner takes apart Boris Johnson's 'fake negotiation' on BrexitJohnson and his supporters argue that keeping a no-deal Brexit on the table is the only way to strengthen the UK's negotiating position.
The prime minister repeated this claim in an address outside Downing Street on Monday, saying that opposition parties and Tory rebels aiming to rule out a no-deal Brexit were "chopping the legs from under" his negotiations.
He also began managing expectations in an earlier speech in which he said the negotiation was "not going to be a cinch" and that "people should not hold their breath" for a deal.