John McDonnell calls for Whitehall probe into claim Boris Johnson backers could profit from no-deal Brexit
John McDonnell has called for a civil service inquiry following claims by Philip Hammond that wealthy supporters of Boris Johnson stand to profit from a no-deal Brexit.
The Shadow Chancellor wrote to Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill calling for an investigation into a “potential conflict of interest” after the former Chancellor suggested the PM was pursuing the interests of financial backers set to gain from Britain crashing out of the bloc.
Mr Hammond – who was one of 21 Tory rebels kicked out of the party for backing legislation to block a no-deal Brexit – said he was repeating a comment made last week by Rachel Johnson, the Prime Minister’s sister.
Writing in The Times, he said: “Boris Johnson asserts, ever more boldly, that we will leave the EU on October 31, ‘with or without a deal’.
“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.”
The claims prompted Mr McDonnell to tweet: “Given widespread concerns raised by former Chancellor Philip Hammond’s comment today about Johnson’s speculator sponsors profiteering from no deal Brexit I am writing to Mark Sedwill, Cabinet Secretary, to seek a Cabinet Office investigation into this potential conflict of interest.”
Mr Hammond’s claim was later rubbished by James Meadway, a former top economic adviser to Mr McDonnell, who branded it “an absurd conspiracy theory that the former Chancellor should know better than to promote”.
Meanwhile government minister, Nadhim Zahawi, told the Independent that the claims were “completely untrue”.
“Philip, you let yourself down by claiming speculators on no deal are interfering in us leaving the EU,” he said.
“This is an ugly smear that is completely untrue. If you know anything about finance or the City then you will know that,” he said.
The claim by Mr Hammond were echoed by former Tory colleague, Guto Bebb however, who added: “The dubious financiers who supported the ‘leave’ campaign and the prime minister’s leadership campaign are betting against Britain.
“The PM should put the interests of the country first rather than facilitating a financial bonanza for a few.”