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Gordon Brown calls for tougher lobbying rules in wake of David Cameron-Greensill row

Downing Street has announced an investigation into David Cameron‘s lobbying of ministers while working for the collapsed financial firm Greensill capital.

The former prime minister had contact with chancellor Rishi Sunak and health secretary Matt Hancock but has accepted he should have communicated with the government “through only the most formal of channels”.

There is no suggestion Mr Cameron broke any rules while lobbying for the firm, although he has faced heavy criticism for allegedly giving Lex Greensill, the firm’s boss, far-reaching access to his government.

Elsewhere, talks are underway aimed at resolving problems related to the Northern Ireland protocol after disorder and violence blighted the region throughout much of the last week.

UK and EU officials are said to be examining how issues related to the post-Brexit agreement, which has drawn a de facto border down the Irish sea, can be addressed, Ireland’s national broadcaster RTE reported.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU has put the future of many exporting businesses at risk, with 41 per cent reporting decreased overseas sales in the first three months of the new arrangements, according to a new survey by one of the UK’s leading business organisations.

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Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s rolling coverage of UK political news as the row over David Cameron’s lobbying of ministers rumbles on, and the full extent of the impact of Brexit for British businesses becomes clearer.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 07:47

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David Cameron accepts ‘lessons to be learnt’ over Greensill

First off, more on the escalating lobbying row that has forced David Cameron to comment publicly after weeks of silence.

In a lengthy statement, he insisted he broke no rules over his work for the failed finance firm Greensill, but admitted he should have communicated with the government “through only the most formal of channels”.

The former prime minister, making his first public statement since the controversy broke last month, said he understood public concern about his contact, including by text message and email, with cabinet ministers including Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, and Matt Hancock, the health secretary.

However, while acknowledging that he should have acted differently “so there can be no room for misinterpretation”, he claimed that “many of the allegations that have been made about these issues are not correct”.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 07:53

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Lobbying scandal grows with revelation of Cameron contact with No 10 and Hancock

The lobbying row involving the former PM gained momemtum over the weekend when it emerged David Cameron had pushed Greensill’s case with Downing Street and the health secretary, Matt Hancock.

The supply-chain finance company was rejected for the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility despite Mr Cameron repeatedly sending private texts to the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, pleading for the scheme to be amended so Greensill could qualify.

Records released by the Treasury this week showed that on one occasion Mr Sunak responded to say he had “pushed” officials to explore possible options.

On Sunday, it emerged that the former premier emailed a senior special adviser to Boris Johnson within hours of the rejection to argue that it was “nuts” for Greensill to be excluded and urging the government to reconsider.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 08:09

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Gordon Brown calls for tougher lobbying rules

Gordon Brown said that tougher rules could be needed to prevent former prime ministers and ministers lobbying in the wake of the David Cameron-Greensill row.

“I can’t comment on the individual detail of this, but for me there are principles about public service – it cannot ever become a platform for private gain,” Mr Brown told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“Ministers must never be lobbying, former ministers, prime ministers, must never be lobbying for commercial purposes. Current ministers should not be entertaining such lobbying.

Gordon Brown, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010

Gordon Brown, who served as prime minister from 2007 to 2010

(PA)

“And if we can’t succeed in achieving this stopping by the sort of flexibility of the rules, we are going to have to pass laws to make sure that at least for say five years, no serving or former prime minister or minister, is ever lobbying for any commercial purpose within government.

“It simply brings public service into disrepute.”

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 08:25

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Businesses ‘at risk’ from Johnson’s Brexit deal as 41% report fall in exports to EU

Boris Johnson’s Brexit trade deal with the EU has put the future of many exporting businesses at risk, writes our political editor, Andrew Woodcock, with 41 per cent reporting decreased overseas sales in the first three months of the new arrangements, according to a new survey by one of the UK’s leading business organisations.

The British Chambers of Commerce called on the UK government to get back round the table with the EU for fresh negotiations to lower some of the barriers to trade created by Mr Johnson’s Christmas Eve Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA).

While some of the collapse in trade with continental Europe was due to the Covid pandemic, the BCC said many firms were blaming Brexit for shipping delays, increased cost of transporting goods and extensive new paperwork requirements.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 08:41

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Covid rules ease from today

Boris Johnson has urged the public to “behave responsibly” when pub gardens reopen and restaurants resume outdoor dining in a major easing of England’s coronavirus lockdown.

Shops deemed non-essential will also reopen on Monday, as will hairdressers, indoor gyms, swimming pools, nail salons and zoos in another stride back towards normality.

A man cleans a shop window on Regent Street as Covid rules begin to ease

(REUTERS)

However, social mixing indoors will remain heavily restricted, with around two in five adults yet to receive their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the vast majority yet to get both.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 08:58

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Tributes to Prince Philip

Tributes will be paid to Prince Philip, who died on Friday aged 99, in the Scottish and Welsh parliaments from 11.00am, in the Northern Ireland Assembly after noon and by MPs at the House of Commons from 2.30pm today.

The prime minister will lead the session as the Commons reconvenes a day early after its Easter break.

Mr Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have agreed to suspend campaigning for the 6 May elections for a period of mourning, and ministers will also cancel planned interviews, visits and non-urgent announcements.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 09:14

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Johnson will allow second Scottish independence vote if SNP wins election, Sturgeon says

Boris Johnson will not prevent a second Scottish independence referendum if the SNP wins a majority at next month’s Holyrood election, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The prime minister has so far opposed calls for another referendum, arguing that the 2014 vote was a once-in-a-generation event, and the Scottish Conservatives are campaigning on opposing a second vote.

However, Ms Sturgeon told The Guardian that she believed the UK government’s discussions on the matter had moved from opposing a referendum to discussing when and how it should take place.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 09:30

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MPs, business leaders and economic experts to scrutinise post-Brexit trade deals

A new cross-party group comprising of MPs, business leaders and economic experts is being established to scrutinise of the UK’s trade deals with Europe and the rest of the world.

The Trade and Business Commission will be co-convened by Labour MP Hilary Benn and the chairman of Virgin Group, Peter Norris.

It will bring together 11 MPs from nine parties in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and will initially assess the economic impact of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and other UK trade deals.

The group will also take written and oral evidence from expert witnesses, businesses and the public to assess how the changes have affected the UK economy, from financial services to manufacturing.

Roger Gale, a Tory MP on the panel, said the group would study how small businesses are “bearing the brunt of new red tape at our borders”.

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 09:47

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Lobbying row reflects ‘very casual way of running governments’

Tory MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, who is chair of the Commons Liaison Committee, has said that the David Cameron lobbying row reflects a culture of “a very casual way of running governments”.

Asked about the former prime minister’s statement, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, he is clearly feeling acutely embarrassed.

“And in some respects, he is reflecting a culture of a very casual way of running governments and running the country that didn’t start with David Cameron; ‘sofa government’ long pre-dated David Cameron.

“This very informal way of conducting relationships about very important matters and the distribution of public money, well I don’t think the public thinks that’s acceptable.

“But I am not going to pass judgment on David Cameron, I think in some respects it’s a distraction.”

David Cameron giving evidence to the National Security Strategy Committee on the subject of the national security strategy in 2019

(PA)

He added: “What is more important is not who is lobbying, and even if you have a five-year ban as suggested by Gordon Brown, is it OK for an ex-prime minister to start lobbying after six years?

“You can’t make laws stretch far into the future to bind people to previous employment, it just doesn’t work.” 

Tom Batchelor12 April 2021 10:02

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