Three former Conservative cabinet ministers deny offering to sell insider information about Britain’s exit from the European Union to a foreign firm or access to key figures in the negotiations.
Andrew Lansley, Peter Lilley, and Andrew Mitchell were secretly filmed apparently trying to sell intelligence on the ongoing Brexit negotiations to fictitious Chinese company Tianfen, in a joint investigation by The Sunday Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches.
The uncertainty surrounding Brexit has caused a “lobbying frenzy” within political circles, with businesses are desperate for information to inform how to plan their investment strategies for the coming years.
The Dispatches footage appeared to show Lord Lansley offering thousands of pounds for Brexit information, which he said could be hidden from authorities by funnelling it through his wife’s company, Brussels-based Low Europe. He said he was already making €5,000 a day (around £4,400) by providing advice to pharmaceutical clients about Brexit progress, but that introductions to leading Brexit figures would not be part of the deal.
However, Peter Lilley did appear to show an interest in providing introductions to key Brexit ministers for a fee, and amphasised his “good relationships” with Fox and David Davis.
Andrew Mitchell appeared to offer to work up to 10 weeks a year for Tianfen at a cost of £6,000 per day, commenting that “my constituents don’t mind what I’m paid” over and above the nearly £75,000 salary he receives as an MP.
In response to the footage, Lansley said he always kept his outside interests separate to his Lord’s duties and referred himself to Parliament’s standards watchdog to prove his actions were within parliamentary guidelines.
Lilley denied being asked or agreeing to have private conversations with any ministers on behalf of Tianfen, and any suggestion he would provide insider knowledge was “wholly misplaced”. He complained about the programme to Channel 4 and to regulator Ofcom and insisted “I have not undertaken any venture which would involve me breaking the codes of conduct referenced nor the Nolan principles. I repeatedly made it crystal clear I would not use confidential information. I possess no such information. If I did I wouldn’t make it available to anyone.”
Mitchell said all his outside interests were fully declared on the Commons register and that he abided by the letter and the spirit of the rules governing the business interests of MPs.
In total, the reporters found that 20 MPs and former ministers have been paid by private companies for Brexit advice and information in the 18 months since the EU Referendum result in June 2016.