Boris Johnson backs Priti Patel in row over undisclosed meetings in Israel

Posted On: 
3rd November 2017

Boris Johnson has come out in support of his colleague Priti Patel after she was accused of conducting overseas business without informing the Foreign Office.

Boris Johnson and Priti Patel at the UN last year
PA Images

The Foreign Secretary said Ms Patel was a “good friend” and she was “quite right” to be meeting organisations abroad.

International Development Secretary Ms Patel came under fire after it the BBC revealed she held a series of meetings with senior Israeli figures while on holiday.

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She met high-ranking politicians while accompanied by a “powerful pro-Israeli Conservative lobbyist”, but failed to observe standard protocol by keeping Britain aware of her movements.

It sparked fury among Conservative colleagues, with claims she was trying to conduct her own “freelance foreign policy” or seek support for a possible leadership bid.

But Mr Johnson tweeted a message of support for his Cabinet colleague and fellow Brexit supporter.

is a good friend & we work closely together for GLOBAL BRITAIN. Quite right that she meets w/ people & organisations overseas,” he said.

Ms Patel is reported to have met with the leader of one of Israel's main political parties and made visits to several organisations where official departmental business was discussed.

Meanwhile, one source told the BBC that at least one of the meetings was prompted by a suggestion from the Israeli ambassador to London, despite British diplomats having been kept in the dark over the trip.

One minister told the broadcaster: "This is outrageous. She is a Cabinet minister. She just cannot do this. This is about donors and influence."

Another former minister said: "What does it say to the rest of the Middle East if a senior Cabinet minister in charge of Britain's huge aid budget disappears for 48 hours from a family holiday in Israel and is under the wing of a pro-Israeli lobbyist?"

The Liberal Democrats accused Ms Patel of making a "grave error of judgement" after having "seemingly swanned off to Israel to pursue her personal career".

While Labour MP John Trickett said the incident "raises a series of questions about the ethics of public service and the integrity of the Government".

It comes as Theresa May hosts Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in London to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, when Britain laid out plans for the creation of a Jewish state.