McDonnell demands probe into PM’s ‘conflict of interest’ with speculators

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Labour is calling on the Cabinet Secretary to investigate claims Boris Johnson is pursuing a no-deal Brexit to help currency speculators and hedge funds who bankroll the Tories.

In a letter to Sir Mark Sedwill, shadow chancellor John McDonnell expressed concern that big Conservative donors who backed Mr Johnson had a financial interest in a no-deal break.

His intervention comes after former chancellor Philip Hammond accused Mr Johnson of failing to pursue negotiations with the EU seriously while speculators were set to make a killing if the UK left without an agreement.

Writing in The Times, Mr Hammond – one of 21 Tory MPs to have the whip withdrawn after rebelling over Brexit – said he was voicing concerns shared by the Prime Minister’s sister, Rachel Johnson.

“Boris Johnson asserts, ever more boldly, that we will leave the EU on October 31, ‘with or without a deal’,” he wrote.

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“But as his sister has reminded us, he is backed by speculators who have bet billions on a hard Brexit – and there is only one outcome that works for them: a crash-out no-deal Brexit that sends the currency tumbling and inflation soaring.

“So they, at least, will be reassured to see no evidence at all that his Government has seriously pursued a deliverable deal; still less that it has been pursuing a deal that could get us out by October 31.”

Philip Hammond said currency speculators stand to make a killing from a no-deal Brexit (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

In his letter to Sir Mark, Mr McDonnell said the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party had received significant sums from individuals backing no-deal – some of them involved in hedge funds.

At the same time, he wrote there had been widespread reports of increases in “short positions” being taken against sterling in anticipation of a possible no-deal, while Mr Johnson had expressed a willingness to leave the EU without an agreement.

“These three facts have caused concern that the Prime Minister may have a conflict of interest,” he wrote.

“Donors to the Conservative Party and/or Prime Minister could stand to gain from a no-deal Brexit (even if only through cushioning losses by adopting short positions).

“The Prime Minister could reasonably be seen as having an interest in securing a no-deal Brexit to financially benefit his donors.”

He added: “It is becoming increasingly apparent from public comment that the Prime Minister is bringing into doubt whether he is upholding the highest standards, thereby further undermining public confidence and trust in him and his Government.

“It is important for public confidence and trust in the House of Commons that any real or apparent conflict of interest is investigated. Only an independent inquiry with access to full facts can settle this.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. what a lying devious self serving piece of scum, Boris Johnson turns out to be. he can’t run the country. he can’t deliver a coherent speech, he can’t even be an amateur criminal. he leaves a trail of evidence that would embarass real criminals

    2. Shocking, but isn’t it always true that the Tories act in the interests of money? Of course, Hammond represents a tempered strain of Toryism, but at the same time is motivated partly by his desire to stay in the EU. If a killing were to have been made by speculators through a remain vote in 2016, would Hammond have protested? Johnson and Cummings are the Bismarkian Right. Cumming is starry-eyed about the Prussian disrupter. He has a naive under-grad’s identification and excessive admiration for a political leader he believes was a genius. Bismark set the cat among the pigeons to snatch his opportunity from chaos and succeeded; but the liberal parliament he was up against was the product of the 1848 revolution. It was barely a decade old, untried, and there was no significant constitutional precedent. Cummings’ mistake is to think you can do the same to a parliament hundreds of years old. There was no Supreme Court to humiliate Bismark because the legal framework was too young. Johnson and Cummings fail to experience humiliation because they are lost in fantasy. The British constitution is too robust for their adolescent pranks. This is not smashing up a restaurant, it’s smashing up democracy, but more than that, the ancient relationship between the executive and legislature. Prussia had no 1688. Prussia was Prussia. To imagine what worked for Bismark in 1860 will work for Britain in 2019 is unhinged. The more they push at the legal limits, the more they will destroy themselves. They will serve neither their rich friends nor society in general. They’ve picked a fight they can’t win. We won’t leave the EU on 31st October. Johnson won’t do so he’ll have to do the other thing, politically.

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