LATEST: Guy Verhofstadt accuses Nick Timothy of spreading “Kremlin-sponsored conspiracy theories”.
Nick Timothy, Theresa May’s former chief of staff, has hit back at accusations he was engaging in “anti-semitic conspiracy theories” after he contributed to a report detailing how billionaire investor George Soros has backed an anti-Brexit campaign.
The involvement of Soros in the Best for Britain group was reported on the front page of the Daily Telegraph on Thursday morning. According to the newspaper, Soros has donated £400,000 its campaign.
Best for Britain chairman Lord Malloch-Brown, a former minister and diplomat, said the group had followed rules governing financial contributions “to the letter”.
Timothy, who backed the Leave cause, used his column in the newspaper to claim the group wanted to bring down May’s government.
Jonathan Portes, a professor and former senior government economist, suggested on Twitter that Timothy was playing into “anti-semitic” theories about Soros.
Later on Thursday, the European Parliament’s Brexit chief, Guy Verhofstadt, accused him of spreading “Kremlin-sponsored conspiracy theories”.
He told the Independent: “Viktor Orban and his illiberal friends, who are obsessed with demonising human rights and free speech advocates, would be proud.
“For decades, the UK has been a beacon and stalwart defender of liberal democratic principles within Europe and beyond and I hope this will continue.”
Responding to Portes, Timothy hit back and told him the answer is no” and said he “withdraw the insinuation/allegation”.
Sir Eric Pickles, the former Tory cabinet minister who is the the prime minister’s Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust “ludicrous”.
The funding for Best for Britain came through one of Soros’s foundations.
Soros, one of the world’s richest men who made a billion dollars betting against sterling on Black Wednesday in 1992, previously said it was possible that the UK would apply to rejoin the European Union soon after Brexit.
Lord Malloch-Brown said the group had “never hidden our agenda”. The Best for Britain website states that remaining a member of the European Union “must be presented again to the country as one of the options” for voters.
“We have been campaigning hard to win a meaningful vote on Brexit, which we did, and to keep all options on the table, including staying in the European Union,” Lord Malloch-Brown said.
“We, like millions of people, believe that Britain should lead, not leave Europe. We work with campaigners, businesses, unions, politicians and community groups to make sure everyone has a strong campaigning voice.”
A Brest for Britain source told HuffPost UK: “I love the Telegraph and many of its journalists but this was a pathetic piece of reporting. We have never hidden our agenda to keep all options, including staying in the EU on the table.
“We have also never hidden funds and supports us. We hope they plan to do a follow up. The publicity is very welcome.”
Timothy wrote in his column for The Daily Telegraph: “The objective is to convince MPs to vote against the deal Theresa May negotiates with Brussels, regardless of its content and despite the risk that doing so could mean Britain leaves the EU with no alternative agreement in place.
“Malloch-Brown and his backers believe that, if Parliament rejects the Brexit deal, the Government will fall, and Brexit can then be stopped.”
He said it should be a “wake-up call” to Conservatives in Parliament, adding: “However Tory MPs feel about Brexit, voting against the Government when the deal is done risks something much, much worse.”