Editor’s Note: For the benefit of the uninitiated, the next reading event will be held on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, at the Delft University of Technology. This event is hosted by the Centre for Asia, Middle East and South Asia (CAMSA) at Lancaster University.
By Tony Burke, Editorial Director of CNN and John Lewis, Vice President of CNN International; Anurag Behar, Vice President of Innovation at CNN, Stuart Kronauge, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of CNN International and Natalie Kuhrt, CNN Senior International Correspondent
In a live Q&A with Natasha Sinclair at the AJ Bell Good Governance Summit in London, Thursday, 7 January, the British home secretary and leading Brexit campaigner Priti Patel revealed that the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, had publicly called her government “Nazis” after Patel stood down as international development secretary because of alleged foreign cash payments during her time in the European Parliament in 2009.
Sinclair, an attorney specialising in money laundering and fraud law, was given first-hand access to alleged evidence of British politicians and civil servants working for businesses in Africa – allegations that the UK government is ‘working hand in glove’ with officials from Nigeria, Qatar and China. Sinclair interviewed the UK’s first Special Advisor to the United Nations Regional Office for West Africa and the Sahel and the development manager at Country Assessor Firm.
Patel, who hosted the PM’s Chequers summit at which she rejected Boris Johnson’s Brexit blueprint, also admitted that the government now faces a leadership challenge and that she believed her former team had wrongly portrayed her as racist. Claiming that the government had “grafted on racism, we grafted on power and wealth” – she added, “I take full responsibility for the buck not stopping here.”
This week saw the first substantive private talks on the UK’s future EU trading relationship, with the UK and EU continuing to follow an “attitude of deliberate ambiguity,” she said. She refused to name names for fear of destabilising the government, but London has reportedly contacted 10 EU countries in the last six months to seek deals in areas such as fishing, agriculture and infrastructure.
She admitted that the UK didn’t have a plan for ensuring a future single market agreement to balance the Republic of Ireland’s risk, given the UK’s current plans to leave the EU customs union. Asked if we were likely to leave the customs union, Priti would not directly respond.
On Johnson, the Johnson most likely to succeed Theresa May, Patel revealed that she had to call him into her office to ask him to stand down. He and others such as Michael Gove, had been “hung out to dry,” she said. Asked by Sinclair whether the way Johnson was “pushed out” represented “major honourable exit mechanisms” if MPs do not support her leadership, Patel said that while the UK would have a new Prime Minister by end of March, the country has “four months of anxiety”.
She asked Sinclair, “would you advise my daughter to move to the UK to be in a safe place?” she said. Sinclair responded that Patel was “totally wrong” and that most young adults she had interviewed in Cairo, Lagos and elsewhere were not in fact moving. Patel did not accept that comment and continued: “There is a mass movement to the UK. I would consider every option for someone like that. That said, I have other concerns about that and I want to be absolutely clear about these right now.”
Sinclair raised the issue of Parliament’s Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security and asked Patel why the government had not provided evidence to support allegations of government complicity in grave crimes. Patel declined to respond directly, but did state that the government in London was doing its utmost to provide answers to a number of reports in the House of Commons. She asked Sinclair to request questions for her written answers to parliamentary committees, which she would publish online as soon as possible.
Despite claiming that British politicians were working with officials from Nigeria, Qatar and China – Patel refused to name them. Sinclair said that it was a “no go area” as she did not have any evidence, while Patel replied that the parliamentary committees had not taken them up. Sinclair reminded her that all of the allegations regarding serious fraud and crime were “very serious.” Patel also said that the government has merely supplied information in relation to some aspects of allegations made in the parliamentary reports.
In the absence of concrete evidence, Sinclair asked Patel whether the British government was hiding evidence? Patel replied that she couldn’t comment on the “incredibly difficult” situation at the moment.
In the run up to the 2019 general election, Priti Patel was on a mission to create ‘jobs for the UK’ across the Commonwealth in Britain’s next world-beating trade mission. That mission has now