EU referendum: Boris Johnson accuses PM of 'collusion' with top business chiefs

PM with media

Boris Johnson has accused David Cameron of “what looks like collusion” with big business leaders to win their support for the remain campaign in exchange for favourable consideration in the awarding of government contracts.

Commenting on a leaked letter from the chief executive of Serco to the prime minister, which referred to discussions over how to persuade firms to voice their support for staying in the EU, Johnson said: “I think it’s important that we look at what’s really going on.

“When you have what looks like collusion between the government and big remain-backing businesses, it seems to be suggesting that in exchange for support for remain there’s consideration given to the awarding of lavish public sector contracts. I think we need a full explanation of that without delay.”

Johnson had earlier described the correspondence between the Serco CEO, Rupert Soames, and the prime minister, which took place while Cameron’s negotiations over a new EU deal were still going on, as “the biggest stitch-up since the Bayeux tapestry”, adding: “It makes us look like a banana republic.”

In the letter, obtained by the Daily Mail and dated 8 February, Soames writes: “Thank you for a very useful meeting last week. 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.”

The former London mayor was speaking on Tuesday during a visit to an aluminium processing plant in Staffordshire, where he burned a cheque for £350m in the plant’s blast furnace to symbolise the amount of money the leave campaign says Britain pays the EU every week.

Describing the prime minister’s negotiations for an improved EU deal as a “fiction” and a “mime”, Johnson told reporters: “There was no real change to the treaties, no fundamental, far-reaching reform of the kind we were promised.”

Johnson also responded to remarks made by Cameron on Tuesday in which he said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isis, was probably in favour of Britain leaving the EU.

“You might argue that it was a bit much to start comparing people who are arguing for freedom in this country, free restoration of democracy, to say that our allies are Putin and Daesh [Isis]. I think that’s a bit much, frankly.”

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Esther Addley, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 17th May 2016 16.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010