Operation Surprise: leaked emails expose secret intelligence coup to install Boris Johnson
15 May, 2022
Leaked emails reviewed by The Grayzone reveal possibly criminal plot by pro-Leave elites to sabotage Theresa May’s Brexit deal, infiltrate government, spy on campaign groups, and replace May with Boris Johnson.
- Intelligence cabal infiltrated UK civil service thanks to “centrally placed mole”
- Ex-MI6 chief Richard Dearlove pitched espionage operations targeting civil service and campaign groups
- Fake Democratic Party fronts run by CIA veterans were proposed to infiltrate pro-Remain groups
- Cabal sought to spy on and disrupt Prime Minister’s top Brexit negotiator
- Shadowy billionaires funded effort in total secret
- Dearlove claimed credit for influencing government policy on Huawei
- Cabal now seeking to remove Boris Johnson
- These efforts could amount to charges of TREASON
Leaked emails and documents reviewed by The Grayzone have exposed the dimensions of a wide-ranging conspiracy managed by a shadowy cabal of hardcore Leavers to sabotage former Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, remove her from office, replace her with Boris Johnson, and secure a ‘hard’ withdrawal from the EU.
The emails demonstrate that a group of operatives linked to the intelligence services and wealthy, reclusive pro-Brexit financiers spied on campaign groups, infiltrated the civil service, and targeted high-profile Remainers with reputational destruction. While the majority of British voters elected to assert their independence from the EU, this clique of mostly unknown influence agents sought to subvert the process and manage it according to their own elite interests.
Among their key objectives was to strengthen the security relationship between London and Washington, thus supplanting EU authority with more substantial US oversight.
The cabal, which continues to exert insidious, undue influence on British politics, politicians and policy to this day, is composed of wealthy financiers, representatives of the military and defense establishment, and intelligence officials.
The origin of the tranche of emails, which were shared with The Grayzone anonymously, is unknown. However, this reporter has verified the authenticity of the emails and documents contained therein through their metadata, among with other evidentiary sources. Much of the content would be impossible to counterfeit or doctor.
The public interest in these private communications is abundantly clear, as the actions exposed in the tranche are so flagrantly anti-democratic they could lead to criminal investigations of at least some of the actors involved.
The cabal appears to be led by Gwythian Prins, a member of the Chief of Defence Staff’s Strategy Advisory Panel, former NATO and Ministry of Defence advisor, and board member of pro-Brexit group Veterans for Britain.
Prins’ bio on his speakers’ bureau advertises him as a “leading thinker on strategy” who has “worked with leading decision makers around the globe from business leaders all the way up to heads of state, helping them to improve their decision making by educating them on the complex psychological processes underpinning theses[sic] decisions.”
He is joined by former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove, who is frequently dubbed “C” in the leaked emails, a reference to the operational initial granted to all heads of Britain’s foreign intelligence service. At one point, Dearlove and Prins sought to recruit their apparent friend, Henry Kissinger, and his consulting firm as trans-Atlantic lobbyists for their version of Brexit.
Dearlove’s MI6 1999 through 2004 tenure was typified by controversy, thanks largely to the deceptions he advanced to justify the war on Iraq. The longtime spook played a prominent role in selling that illegal war to the media and politicians. Dearlove was ultimately singled out for censure in an official inquiry into the conflict, which found that he had passed on bogus intelligence testifying to Baghdad’s non-existent WMD directly to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The cabal also includes historian Robert Tombs, a pundit and emeritus professor at the University of Cambridge.
A leaked file authored in August 2018 by Prins spells out the cabal’s bold and malicious objectives in vivid detail. Motivated by a desire to “take the fight to our opponents, who are remorseless, by all necessary means,” its members sought to:
“Block any deal arising from the disastrous and craven Chequers White Paper; ensure that we leave on clean WTO [World Trade Organisation] terms; if necessary, remove this Prime Minister [emphasis added] and replace with one fit for purpose; cleanse the polluted civil service from top to bottom.”
Months later, in an email disseminating highly sensitive briefings for PM May on EU withdrawal, Prins instructed Dearlove: “Now kill her and it.”
Published in July 2018, the “Chequers White Paper” set out a potential blueprint for London’s “managed divergence” from Brussels. Criticized by Leavers as a recipe for continued EU membership by other means, the plan prompted then-Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to resign in protest.
For months by that point, Brexiteers had been leveling aggressive attacks on the civil service, Britain’s permanent bureaucracy, charging that the body’s purported Remainer sympathies led its members to block London’s withdrawal.
The cabal, for its part, was ferociously opposed to any arrangement that would keep Britain tethered to Brussels’ defense structures and obligations, contending that it would undermine the US and UK-led ‘Five Eyes’ global spying network. So convinced of this was Prins that he dismissed unsubstantiated rumors of Russian support for Brexit as “maskirovka,” on the basis Moscow’s “strategic interest” was in fact to keep London “weakened and hobbled” in a “collapsing EU.”
To achieve the cabal’s ends, Prins proposed an “influence campaign” to “defeat” prominent Remainer groups, including Best for Britain. He also sought to establish a “coordinating committee” of all major Brexit operations tied to Vote Leave, the official campaign to leave the European Union. And he planned an unspecified “intelligence operation,” presumably to undermine opponents of a hard Brexit.
Inspired by a quote from Master and Commander, a 2003 Hollywood blockbuster dramatizing the Royal Navy’s 19th century derring-do, the subversive effort was dubbed “Operation Surprise.”
Funding for what amounts to a covert political plot appears to have been furnished by wealthy backers including Tim and Mary Clode, an aristocratic husband and wife based in Jersey, a notorious British tax haven.
Little information can be found online about the Clodes. In a leaked email sent to Prins, the pair noted they had “studiously avoided all interaction with social media,” adding they were “quite good at consciously discreet conversations, if required.”
Despite their reclusiveness, the Clodes are clearly well-connected. In the acknowledgements of his 2014 book, Exocet Falklands, author Ewen Southby-Tailyour thanked the couple for providing, “advice, wise counsel, further contacts…and priceless snippets from afloat, ashore, in the air and along the corridors of military and civilian power.”
Allegedly, Julian ‘Toby’ Blackwell, owner of the Blackwell publishing empire, also rustled up funds for the operation. An arch Brexiteer and multimillionaire who bankrolled numerous Leave entities, his Who’s Who entry lists his hobbies as “fighting Eurocrats and chopping firewood.”
“‘A Very English Coup D’Etat’…could be carefully orchestrated to achieve maximum impact”
Funding for the cabal’s “Operation Surprise” plot began flowing almost as soon as it was conceived.
In September 2018, Gwythian Prins fired off an email to Julian Blackwell, addressing his chum as “Trooper,” a reference to the publisher’s SAS special forces background, and thanking him for his “hugely welcome and generous willingness to cover my foregone income for effectively the first half of this FY [financial year].”
He added that the Clodes were “marvellously willing to cover my time for the next phase of the year,” so he could “relax on the money front.” Oddly, Prins directed Blackwell to send the funds to his wife’s bank account – possibly a means to conceal transfers to himself.
The Clodes also offered up thousands of pounds for the “intelligence operation,” following a call Dearlove made to them at Prins’ request.
In an August 2018 email to Prins, Tim Clode reported how the former MI6 chief outlined a “proposed modus operandi” for carrying out an espionage operations on Best for Britain in order to secure “maximum intel” on the pro-Remain group and its “co-conspirators.” He considered the target “very valuable” because it was “opening a second front through the People’s Vote movement, with a major effort to get the Labour Party to change official policy on a second referendum.”
Tim told Dearlove that he also considered Oliver Robbins, May’s Europe Adviser and the chief Brexit negotiator, and his wider civil service unit “to be an equally important target,” in order to “force open the whole can of worms of rank disloyalty” among the civil service.
“If we could discover any ‘direct traffic’ between any of this disloyal civil service group and Best for Britain and its supporters, it would be dynamite,” Tim Clode wrote. “As per your ‘A very English Coup d’Etat,’ this could be carefully orchestrated to achieve maximum impact, either as per The Sun – Kit Kat tapes exclusives or selected private political briefings to key players.”
Dearlove expressed a “high degree of confidence in the civil service objective,” and proposed a budget of “circa £4 – £5K per month” to dig up dirt on Best for Britain and Robbins, “strictly dependent on product results.”
A subsequent email from Prins revealed that the covert effort to “penetrate the enemy’s inner councils” would be led by former SIS (MI6 Secret Intelligence Service) operatives, connected to the notorious lobbying firm Crosby-Textor.
In April 2019, Crosby-Textor was exposed as the hidden hand behind a series of bogus social media accounts targeting millions of British voters with ads extolling the virtues of a ‘Hard Brexit,’ and urging viewers to “chuck Chequers.”
Prins relayed advice from Dearlove, referred to by his code name, “C,” on how to achieve the infiltration. The former MI6 chief would “judge when there is a practicable breach to exploit,” apparently certain that “background coordination” was underway. The former spy further described Crosby-Textor as “the spider in the middle of the web,” with its staff deployed to Boris Johnson’s leadership bid, “which is now in full swing.”
If Dearlove’s ex-MI6 contacts were unable to provide “gold” such as “the high-level plans of Best for Britain,” he would instead employ “some former CIA colleagues to set up a fake Democratic Party operation to approach the Remainers from across the seas – and in New York – to penetrate them.”
These individuals were reportedly “highly expert at this sort of espionage,” Prins said, promising they would conduct infiltration work modeled after an operation carried out by Veterans for Britain, except “on a larger scale.”
Prins concluded his incendiary missive by stating he would soon travel to Washington DC to meet with “special contacts” provided by Dearlove, in order to “open a line of attack in support of us from the USA.”
“May must go. The details of how that will be done ‘C’ [Dearlove] will hear on 18th September,” he explained.
An August 2019 email reviewed by The Grayzone demonstrates how Veterans for Britain executed its espionage operation. In the message, Prins relays to Dearlove how the group’s communications chief, a former Naval Intelligence officer named David Banks, successfully ‘stung’ Alastair Brockbank, a senior civil service defense adviser whom Dearlove publicly accused in October 2018 of “working to lock UK defence and security under EU control after Brexit.”
To verify whether Brockbank had left his post advising Oliver Robbins, the Brexit negotiator – information the cabal “could not find out by normal enquiry” – Banks messaged Brockbank posing as an associate of Centre for European Reform researcher Sophia Besch – whom Prins privately branded a “ghastly German remaniac.”
Brockbank was subsequently duped into confirming that he remained in Downing Street. The successful sting prompted an apparently delighted Prins to ask Dearlove whether Banks was “one of yours” – in other words, an MI6-linked operative.
The cabal’s “centrally-placed mole in the civil service” leaks No. 10’s secret “warplan,” exposes official secrets behind nom de plume
On September 21st 2018, the day after a deeply embarrassing EU summit in Austria, in which member state leaders lined up to condemn Theresa May’s Chequers plan, Prins emailed Blackwell and the Clodes to inform them he and Dearlove supported a strategy to “put intolerable pressure on May,” which would serve to “keep her in office but not in power.”
The subject line of Prins’ email read: “OUR ACTIVE MEASURES STRATEGY; HIGHLY SENSITIVE.”
“If, however, she refuses then Plan B will be required, which changes personnel [emphasis added]. But this is riskier,” Prins wrote, adding that a “trial operation” would soon be launched against May’s Brexit negotiator – “to penetrate the world of Oliver Robbins and his No 10 unit.” The cabal thus sought to infiltrate what Prins called “the very heart of the beast.”
It is uncertain what this entailed, and whether it was successful. In December 2018, however, Prins met in secret with Evelyn Farr, a civil service employee who had previously been identified in UK media as a pro-Brexit activist, and who moonlighted as a historian.
A CV self-authored by Farr indicates that since November 2016, she had been overseeing the drafting of EU withdrawal legislation at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, as part of a team directly involved in exit negotiations.
In a subsequent email to the Clodes, Prins boasted that Farr’s insider role placed her “in a position that gives her eyes on ALL [emphasis in original] the key documents,” and who could disclose “extraordinary things” from within the Department for Exiting the European Union.
Writing under the pseudonym Caroline Bell, Farr publicized privileged information on Brexit negotiations for outlets including Conservative Woman, as well as pro-Leave outfits like Briefings for Brexit and Brexit Central. She also passed highly sensitive behind-the-scenes details to the cabal. These disclosures may well have amounted to a breach of the Official Secrets Act, for which penalties are severe.
The cabal naturally considered Farr a top asset, and was determined to protect her identity at any cost. After a publishing error created a slight risk of Farr’s cover being blown, Prins took all of Farr’s articles offline, and began deleting emails to and from her.
Farr had yet to be compromised by this point, nor was she deterred from aiding and abetting the cabal. Communicating with Prins via the email nom de plume of Ian Moone – an avowed anagram of “I am no one” – she continued to provide a wealth of privileged information about May’s Brexit plans. Repeatedly, she requested that the metadata that revealed her as the author of documents be scrubbed before circulation.
Declaring himself “immensely impressed” by the cabal’s newfound “centrally-placed mole in the civil service,” Prins informed Robert Tombs on December 20th that his covert wrecking crew had retained a reputation management firm called New Century to manage its communications campaigns. He requested that Farr provide to the firm “a document that has been seen by at least 40-50 people” demonstrating the civil service was in fact prepared for a no deal Brexit, “which they will then leak.”
It remains unknown whether Farr engaged in direct sabotage of Brexit negotiations while in her day job. However, she evidently thought highly of the cabal’s destructive efforts. In a January 15th 2019 email to Prins – subject line: “Well done to us!” – Farr cheered the “crushing defeat” of May’s Withdrawal Agreement earlier that day in the House of Commons.
“Now is the time to head off all the mad undemocratic schemes of the thwarted Remainers,” she added without any apparent irony.
In at least one instance, Farr passed “sensitive” Whitehall documents directly to the cabal. On March 20th 2019, she forwarded photographs of an internal briefing to Prins on “lines to take” ahead of the Prime Minister formally requesting a withdrawal extension from the EU. Prins then circulated the files to a number of individuals, including Dearlove and the neoconservative pundit Douglas Murray, and Conservative MP and Johnson confidante Steve Baker.
In a message to Dearlove, Prins declared, “Here is her warplan. Now kill her and it.”
Prins subsequently sought to connect Farr with lawmakers in person, arranging a meeting between her and David Davis. It is unclear what they discussed, but it was evidently highly sensitive. The MP suggested meeting somewhere other than his nearest pub, White Swan, as its equidistance between MI5 and MI6 headquarters meant it “occasionally has spooks in it.”
With Johnson in Whitehall, the cabal aims to guide him, destroy all in his way
Fast forward to early June 2019. May was finally vanquished and a Conservative leadership election was underway. That month, Prins dispatched a set of proposals to Jacob Rees-Mogg, a prominent Brexiteer, which provided a clear blueprint for Johnson’s first moves in office.
Prins advocated proroguing the House of Commons “to prevent Bercow and the addled Parliament from blocking clean exit on 31 October,” identifying which MPs opposed a hard Brexit in order to deselect them and parachute supportive candidates into their constituencies. He further advised defenestrating “the May cell, especially [Mark] Sedwill/Robbins etc and ALL [emphasis in original] civil servants who conducted the May negotiations.”
A Downing Street war on the civil service began almost immediately with Johnson’s election as Prime Minister in July 2019. And a year later, Sedwill was finally shown the door after unending negative briefings to the press.
Behind the scenes, the cabal began organizing to undermine, discredit and intimidate anyone standing in the way of Johnson’s agenda. Prins suggested to Dearlove that he procure “MI5 intel on key Remainiac agitprop agents,” such as Jolyon Maugham, a barrister who fought several successful legal challenges related to Brexit, including “their financials etc to put the frighteners on them.”
On August 28th, parliament was duly prorogued, an act later found to be unlawful by the Supreme Court. On September 3rd, the whip was withdrawn from 21 Conservative MPs who voted in support of a motion to delay withdrawal from the European Union until January 31st the next year, and they were banned for standing for reelection, all replaced by hardcore Brexiteers.
The cabal sought to influence Johnson’s thinking in other ways as well. During the leadership campaign, for example, Dearlove described himself as “preoccupied” with “feeding briefings on national security to Boris.” Praising his student as “quick and able” and “an excellent classical scholar,” he said he felt “reasonably confident” he would succeed in convincing Johnson’s team to block Huawei’s participation in Britain’s 5G network. The former MI6 chief has long-promulgated conspiracy theories that the Chinese tech giant functions as a global spying network for Communist Party of China.
“With the proper team around him he will do well…we need a leader who has the charisma and ability to see off [Jeremy] Corbyn and accommodate the [Nigel] Farage threat. There is no alternative [emphasis added] when you look at the issue from this angle,” Dearlove said of Johnson.
The spook’s confidence was well-founded. Not long after taking office, Johnson’s government postponed making any decision on Huawei’s involvement, and in July 2020 vowed to remove it entirely from the country’s 5G networks by 2027.
Once Michael Gove, a top Tory powerbroker now serving as Minister for Levelling, and Oliver Lewis, a key advisor to Johnson on Brexit, were also ensconced in Downing Street, Prins began providing them with regular briefings and guidance. Farr co-authored one such briefing on how Johnson could ensure a hard withdrawal that would not be scuppered by elected lawmakers or the civil service. In a late September dispatch, he praised the premier’s “Nelsonian nerves and sang froid.”
The cabal turns on Johnson, seeks to infiltrate its mole, Farr, into the Home Office
More recent emails show Prins’ enthusiasm for the Prime Minister has considerably waned. In January of this year, he wrote to Dearlove predicting Johnson’s imminent and welcome departure, and bemoaned the premier’s lack of “stamina” to truly “get Brexit done.”
“Sunak won’t do will he? He’s another globalonist [sic] Blairite at heart isn’t he? Like Boris?” Prins lamented, noting major Johnson donors had shifted their backing to Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Evidently, having failed to deliver precisely what the cabal wanted, the Prime Minister has become expendable, and must himself be supplanted by someone who would.
It may be significant then that Prins has apparently sought to infiltrate the cabal’s civil service mole, Farr, into the Home Office. On February 24th, he emailed Bruges Group founder Patrick Robertson their “centrally-placed” mole’s CV, which included a list of articles she penned as Caroline Bell, ahead of a meeting with Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Dearlove, who was copied on the communique, branded the article list “deadly,” and for Patel’s eyes only, given “it tells a remainer PUS [permanent undersecretary] who our source was in their midst and why the Withdrawal Agreement went belly up [emphasis added].”
Prins further cautioned Robertson that he and Patel should “tightly” protect these documents, “which in the wrong hands blow [Farr’s] cover because they show how central she was as an asset to all of us during the grisly May Days and how vital to our eventual success [emphasis added].”
“Time and again she got us inside the OODA loop at no small risk to herself because she felt it to be her patriotic duty,” he added. (An OODA loop refers to the four-step military decision-making approach of observing, orienting, deciding, and acting. Infiltrating the loop is considered paramount to securing victory in warfare).
“See Eve [Farr] as the modern equivalent to an SOE agent – which I believe her late mother was,” Prins gushed, referring to the Special Operations Executive. Also known as Churchill’s Secret Army or the Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, the SOE unit was composed during World War II of individuals who waged secret sabotage operations behind enemy lines.
The CV indicated that Farr published articles for publications such as the Telegraph under her pseudonym, “Caroline Bell”; that she leaked secret EU briefings to the UK government, “leading to actual policy changes”; and even participated in a so-called “Tiger Team” Prins assembled that “produced early intel on the Chinese threat via Covid-19.”
Dare call it treason?
The emails and documents collated in this article represent but a negligible fraction of a gargantuan tranche of leaked files. But even this small scintilla provides a frighteningly candid glimpse of how power truly operates in Britain, and in whose interests it is ultimately exerted.
While droves of working class Brits voted to leave the EU, venting their rage at an establishment that had, in their view, sold out their interest to bankers and bureaucrats, a coterie of influential, aggressive Brexit proponents representing a minority of elites guided the process from behind the scenes and continue to determine the outcome. These included operatives that are wholly unknown to the public, do not and never will owe their power to popular vote, and are accountable to virtually no one.
The British elite’s deep, cohering contempt for democratic political processes and structures is perfectly encapsulated by Tim Clode’s September 2018 discussion with Richard Dearlove. The aristocratic financier thought nothing of targeting the most senior ranks of the civil service for surveillance and infiltration, and the latter was willing and eager to fulfill the unspeakably perfidious ambition. One need not be a rabid Remainer to suggest that their proposal, along with Evelyn Farr’s actions as their civil society mole, was a wantonly criminal act.
The full extent of the individuals, groups, and state and non-state institutions in Britain that have been or are currently being maliciously targeted in this manner, and by whom or what, may never be known. Still, the leaked tranche reviewed by The Grayzone provides the public with some important insights.
It is clear based on this report alone that clandestine, anti-democratic forces have cunningly penetrated the heart of Downing Street, and have deployed cloak-and-dagger methods to fashion the government and its policy according to its desired objectives.
All but one of the cabal members and funders exposed in this report ignored repeated requests for comment by email and phone. That lone exception was Evelyn Farr, the cabal’s civil service mole. Reached by The Grayzone at a phone number listed on her CV, Farr reacted with alarm.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t know who you are, or why you’ve got this number, and I haven’t gotten a clue what you’re talking about,” an audibly startled Farr proclaimed.
Upon being asked if she had worked to sabotage the Brexit process from behind the scenes, she hung up.
Since initiating these queries, this journalist’s email account has experienced numerous attempted break-ins.