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Cameron faces Tory backlash over EU vote 'big business stitch-up'

Published 17/05/2016

Sir Richard Dearlove says the EU must get a grip on migration or face a 'populist uprising'
Sir Richard Dearlove says the EU must get a grip on migration or face a 'populist uprising'

David Cameron is facing intense pressure from within Tory ranks over "shocking" claims he misled parliament following a "stitch-up" with big business over EU referendum campaigning .

Prominent Conservative Jacob Rees-Mogg called for an inquiry into the allegations and warned the Prime Minister faced having to resign if they were true.

Boris Johnson claimed the alleged pact between Mr Cameron and the corporate world over campaigning for Remain in the June 23 vote " stinks to high heaven".

It comes after a leaked letter from Rupert Soames, chief executive officer of outsourcing company Serco, to the premier about campaigning in the run-up to the June 23 referendum emerged.

In a missive, seen by the Daily Mail, that was sent on February 8, the executive said he was looking at how to "mobilise corporates" during the campaign.

The letter followed a meeting between the Serco boss, who is the brother of Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames, and Mr Cameron days earlier.

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."

Updating MPs on the progress of the EU renegotiations on February 3, Mr Cameron said: "L et me say again that if we cannot secure these changes, I rule nothing out."

Mr Rees-Mogg said it was a "real scandal" and warned that "if Parliament was misled then historically it's led to resignations".

"It's outrageous, it's a real scandal because assuming it's true ... then Parliament was misled and if Parliament was misled then historically it's led to resignations," he told the Bruges Group in central London.

"I think to be organising the Remain camp when saying that you've ruled nothing out, not just to MPs but to the British people, is shocking and I think we need an inquiry to find out whether this was going on. We need to see emails from Downing Street.

"It is a scandal of the highest order."

Asked if Mr Cameron should resign, he added: "If the Prime Minister has misled Parliament that is fundamentally unconstitutional. We need to find out if it's true.

"If it can be proved ... of course any minister has to go. But I do still say if, I'm not calling for this."

Mr Johnson criticised the premier's "meaningless" negotiations, insisting it was now beyond doubt the deal was a " fiction designed to bamboozle the public".

He said: " This is the biggest stitch-up since the Bayeux Tapestry. 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.

"The only safe way to take back control of our borders and our democracy is to Vote Leave on June 23."

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said of the PM: "I think increasingly in this referendum campaign he's looking like Dishonest Dave."

Mr Cameron, meanwhile, gave a "myth-busting" speech on Brexit to members of the World Economic Forum at the Mansion House.

The Prime Minister dismissed claims by the Leave camp that quitting would lead to a bonfire of regulations as "very, very weak" and insisted three million jobs were linked to membership.

Striking a deal on services from outside the EU would take longer than an agreement on goods because other countries, such as Italy, would want to gain advantage from Britain's exit, he warned.

"We may have a deficit in the sale of goods when it comes to the EU but we have a very large surplus when it comes to services and one of the things that I think we should fear is that, of course, if we left the EU they might offer us a deal on goods, but it might take a very long time before they offered a deal on services," he said.

"You can almost imagine the thrill and excitement of service businesses in Italy, France and Germany and elsewhere, saying okay, let's cut a deal with Britain on trade in goods but hold back the trade in services so we can fill all of those insurance and banking and other service industries at which Britain is so good."

A spokesman for Serco said the company would not comment on the row.

Mr Johnson, speaking during a visit to a recycling company near Stafford, said the claims need a full explanation given the apparent "collusion" between the Government and Remain-backing firms.

He told reporters: "The most unsettling thing about this is that this exchange took place while the Prime Minister was nominally considering walking away from the negotiations and prepared to leave.

"What it shows, to my mind, is a colossal stitch-up."

He said the "fat cats" wanting to remain in the EU had been shown "conspiring, it seems, to campaign for Remain while angling for lavish contracts - you've got to wonder what's going on".

Mr Johnson went on: "I think the more clarity we have about that the better."

He added: "When you've got what looks like collusion between the Government and big Remain-backing businesses, on the surface of it it seems to be suggesting that in exchange for support for Remain there is consideration to be given to the awarding of lavish public sector contracts, I think people will wonder what's going on.

"I think we need a full explanation of all that without delay."

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