A leaked letter reveals how Prime Minister David Cameron was plotting with big business to stay in the EU while at the same time telling the public a very different story.
The damning document shows how Cameron was plotting to “exaggerate” the risks of Brexit, while still claiming he was prepared to campaign to leave the EU.
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The former London Mayor said the revelation showed Mr Cameron’s EU renegotiation bid was ‘fiction’ as he had already decided to campaign for a remain vote.
The secret ‘mobilisation’ plan involved asking FTSE 500 companies to put in their annual reports warnings about the dangers of Brexit.
The strategy was discussed in a letter from Serco boss Rupert Soames to Mr Cameron 11 days before the latter’s renegotiation deal with the EU was complete. This followed a meeting a few days earlier.
The PM had been telling the Commons that he ‘ruled nothing out’ unless he won concessions from the EU.
Responding to the claims today Mr Johnson said they made Britain look like a ‘banana republic’. Serco has multi-billion-pound contracts with the Government.
‘This is the biggest stitch up since the Bayeux Tapestry,’ Mr Johnson said. ‘It stinks to high heaven. FTSE 100 chiefs are seeing their pay packets soar while uncontrolled immigration is forcing down wages for British workers.
‘Now we learn that some fat cats have been secretly agreeing to campaign for remain while angling for lavish Government contracts. It makes us look like a banana republic. And it is also now beyond doubt that the so called renegotiation was a fiction designed to bamboozle the public. It was a meaningless mime, a ritual, a kabuki drama in which the outcome was utterly preordained. This is not the far-reaching and fundamental reform we were promised.’
In another frantic day as the referendum battle heats up:
- David Cameron said the leader of the Isis terrorist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and Vladimir Putin would be ‘happy’ if the UK votes to leave
- Mr Johnson warned that the government’s living wage was having a ‘magnetic’ effect on migration from Europe
- Nigel Farage has said he wants another referendum to be held unless Remain wins by a huge margin on June 23
- Insurance group Lloyds of London has supported EU membership, arguing its business would be severely damaged if we leave
- Czech supermodel Eva Herzigova has become the latest celebrity to lecture Britons on which way to vote, saying Brexit would be ‘disastrous’
The talks between Mr Cameron and Mr Soames – an EU supporter who is the brother of the Tory MP Sir Nicholas Soames – took place in early February.
A leaked letter Mr Soames sent to Mr Cameron afterwards, dated February 8, reveals the explosive topic of their conversation.
It states: ‘There were two points I thought I might follow up on. The first is how to mobilise corporates to look carefully at the risks Brexit represents.
‘I am working with Peter Chadlington and Stuart Rose (the head of Britain Stronger in Europe) with a view to contacting FTSE 500 companies who have annual reports due for publication before June and persuading them that they should include Brexit in the list of key risks. All public companies are required to set out in their annual report an analysis of key risks.’
Later that month, global security firm Serco was one of 200 businesses to sign a public letter in support of EU membership.
Lord Chadlington is regarded as one of Mr Cameron’s oldest political allies and is the chairman of the Prime Minister’s local constituency association.
He donated £10,000 to Mr Cameron personally to fund his 2005 run for the Conservative leadership. He has donated more than £60,000 to the party since then.
Last night, No10 said it did not comment on leaked documents.
The meeting took place shortly before Mr Cameron delivered a speech on February 8 on the need for sweeping prison reform.
Mr Soames argued in the letter that the private sector only having 15 per cent of the prisons market was a ‘wasted opportunity’.
Tory MP Steve Baker said: ‘This is proof that big corporates are being asked to gang up on hard-working British families to try to bully them into staying in the EU. There is a coordinated attempt to use company reports as campaigning documents.’
And Labour Leave campaigner Gisela Stuart said: ‘Today George Osborne accused the Leave campaign of inventing conspiracies. Now we see that David Cameron is knee deep in one.
‘There are serious issues for the Prime Minister to answer. We now know he has been doing deals with businesses to exaggerate the risk of a vote by the UK to leave the EU.
He must now tell us urgently how many businesses has he cut secret deals with? Who are they and what were they promised in return?’ Mr Baker added: ‘This should come as no surprise – big corporates do well out of the EU because they can afford well-paid lobbyists and lawyers to stitch up the rules.
‘The same cannot be said for hard-working families who have to wait longer for NHS treatment and have seen living standards fall.’
Serco denied there was any link between support for the EU and trying to secure state contracts.
The company said: ‘We have contracts worth around £130million a year with European institutions such as the European Commission and the European Space Agency, and it is part of a strategy to build the business we do with European institutions.
We believe that if Britain left the EU, it would be more difficult for us to win EU government contracts, and we regard this as a risk to the business.’
Yesterday, Mr Johnson also attacked big businesses over the way they are lobbying to keep Britain inside the EU.
He said: ‘There is a parade of big businesses coming out from Downing Street signing letters saying that they agree with every jot and tittle of EU regulation.
‘Well, of course they agree with an open-border immigration policy because it means they don’t, for instance, have to worry too much about us getting local people.
‘They think they can just get a steady supply of unskilled or skilled labour from abroad and what is the result?’ Mr Soames, who is the grandson of Winston Churchill, said he would argue ‘ferociously’ for the UK to remain in the EU whatever the result of the PM’s renegotiation.
He was also a signatory to No10’s pro-EU business letter in February this year.
In recent years, Serco has secured contracts worth £3.2billion to run private prisons in England and Wales. It has also won contracts with the Home Office worth £704million to run immigration removal centres and accommodation for asylum seekers.
Since joining the company in 2014, former Eton pupil Mr Soames has been entitled to a salary and pension worth more than £1.1million a year.
He can also pocket an annual bonus of up to £1.275million.
Last night, the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign seized on comments by Daniel Hannan MEP, who sits on Vote Leave’s campaign committee.
Mr Hannan said the UK could adopt a model similar to Switzerland or Norway.
Remain campaigners said this would mean continuing to allow the free movement of EU migrants.
Addressing a World Economic Forum event at the Mansion House in central London today, Mr Cameron set out a series of ‘myths’ he wanted to bust about how things would be better outside the EU.
Among them was the idea that there could be a ‘bonfire’ of regulations without the influence of Brussels.
Answering questions from journalists afterwards, the premier expanded on his concerns about security if we were not members of the bloc.
Name checking Isis chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi alongside Vladmir Putin as beneficiaries from Brexit, Mr Cameron said:’It is worth asking the question: Who would be happy if we left?
‘Putin might be happy, I suspect al-Baghdadi might be happy.
‘Our friends around the world are giving us a very clear message, they are saying ‘it’s all up to you, it is your sovereign choice’.
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