An MP and senior staffer to Boris Johnson has claimed a series of tweets to the EU’s chief negotiator questioning him over Brexit were the result of a hack.
Conor Burns’ Twitter posted two messages to Michel Barnier, asking how the bill the UK may have to pay to leave the EU was being calculated. They were then deleted after around three hours and Burns said he had been hacked.
Barnier had said Britain needed to “get serious” about leaving the EU as the third round of Brexit talks, which touched upon issues including the so-called “divorce bill” Britain will pay when it leaves the bloc.
The EU has insisted the figure be settled before Britain’s future trading relationship be determined.
The Twitter account of Burns, who is Principal Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, sent messages to Barnier on Wednesday morning.
“Why don’t you publish how you are calculating UK bill based on law: ie Treaty obligations and directives? Hard facts help,” one said.
Another said: “Britain pays her obligations. Why don’t you publish them based on law ie Treaty obligations and directives. Legal facts help.”
The now deleted tweets were around an hour apart, according to a screengrab circulated by others.
Burns, who backed Brexit since before the referendum, later said he had been out since four hours earlier and had only just realised he was hacked. He deleted the tweets.
This was met with a level of incredulity from Brexit Twitter.
Confusingly, Burns then retweeted someone who attacked him for “trolling” Barnier, compared him to Donald Trump and asked: “Who the fuck do you think you are?”
David Allen Green, a legal journalist, lawyer and Brexit commentator, noted that the alleged hacker knew “quite a lot of background on EU law/the budget issue for a passing random to know so to ask these questions”.
Barnier later tweeted - not acknowledging the now deleted tweets - that the EU needed “clear UK positions on all issues”.