The government has said there was no ‘conflict of interest’ from the Tories over a no-deal Brexit, and those suggesting the party was funded by currency speculators are buying into ‘conspiracy theories’.
It follows an urgent question from shadow chancellor John McDonnell, raised concerns over currency speculators “gambling on the country’s failure” should a no-deal Brexit take place.
He said: “The prime minister and the Conservative Party have received £726,000 from individuals who back a no-deal Brexit, many involved in hedge funds, in this year alone.”
McDonnell asked the government to estimate the scale of speculation on the economic outcome of Brexit, which he described as “placing bets on risks to our economy”.
He added: “Isn’t there a danger the promotion of a no-deal scare by the prime minister, resulting in profiteering by his friends and donors, could be seen as a conflict of interest by any standard and contrary to the ministerial code – which says members must avoid real or apparent conflicts of interests?
“And shouldn’t the minister who is responsible for overseeing the risk to our economy stand up to the prime minister and tell him how inappropriate it is for any candidate for prime ministerial office or any party to accept funds from individuals speculating on the potentially enormous risk to our economy from no-deal Brexit?”
Treasury minister Simon Clarke suggested concerns over currency speculators were a “conspiracy theory” and denied there was any prospect of a conflict of interest.
He told MPs: “I would note when it comes to some of the more outlandish speculation in this area that Frances Coppola in the Financial Times, in an article entitled ‘The mythical bets on no-deal Brexit’, said yesterday ‘this is yet another a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theory’ – and frankly I think that is about the sum of the merit of this debate.”
Clarke said the government would not comment on individuals, adding: “We do not accept there is any prospect of a conflict of interest.”
He added on McDonnell: “I think (he) is making a fairly political and, dare I say it, fairly speculative attempt to try and throw mud around the House this afternoon.
“I didn’t hear anything in his statement or anything in his questions which amount to substantive points.
“They amount, frankly, to trying to propagate myths, to smear and indeed in a week when we’re trying to lower the temperature of the House, they seem intended to stoke it.”
Both former chancellor Philip Hammond and even Boris Johnson’s own sister have suggested the prime minister’s backers could have something to do with the government’s approach to a no-deal Brexit.