Boris Johnson could be compelled to hand over private messages that he could have sent to US technology entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri after the prime minister was issued a summons to the London Assembly to provide details of his ties with her.
Johnson previously stated that there had been no impropriety in his relationship with the lady, whom he first met in 2012 and whom he was alleged to have assisted financially using public funds.
Len Duvall, who heads the London Assembly Oversight Committee, wrote to Johnson on 24 September issuing a two-week deadline for him to share details of his contact with Arcuri, which expires on Tuesday.
Notably, powers to make the head of government testify in front of the oversight committee are stipulated in section 61 of the Greater London Authority Act from 1999, which, as reported by The Guardian, compels anyone who has been mayor within the last eight years to “attend proceedings of the assembly for the purpose of giving evidence” and, if requested, “produce to the assembly documents in their possession or under their control”.
The latter is assumed to potentially include private correspondence, among other things. Failure to comply with the summons may lead to a prison sentence of up to three months or an unspecified fine, the edition wrote.
Although Johnson has denied any wrongdoing, an appearance in front of the committee may prove embarrassing for the prime minister, who has so far declined to respond to allegations about whether he engaged in an extramarital affair with the former actress despite assurances that he will “cooperate with his old friends on the assembly”.
The action that the oversight committee takes, which is set to convene over the Johnson case on Wednesday, is supposed to be affected by separate proceedings potentially undertaken by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, tasked with looking into whether Johnson should be formally probed for alleged misconduct in public office during his tenure as mayor.
In a separate move, the sitting London mayor, Sadiq Khan, asked a senior lawyer to review a decision by the mayor’s promotional agency, London & Partners, to award Arcuri’s firm a £10,000 grant while Johnson was the head of London, and whether it was done as a result of some personal preferences. In a parallel case, another grant of £100,000 given to an Arcuri business, Hacker House, is also being looked into by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
Along with sexual affair reports, Johnson has been alleged to have helped Arcuri secure places on upscale foreign trade trips paid for with taxpayers’ money.
The prime minister has flatly denied the claims, while Arcuri has no less vehemently rejected the allegations of a sexual affair with the PM, insisting in an interview with the Mirror that he visited her in her London flat to learn about technology.
Prime Minister Johnson has been mired in on and off talks over a Brexit deal, with the EU, insisting that Britain should come up with a viable proposal, including on the Irish issue, soon, or otherwise there would be no chance of “advancing” further.
The EU's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said that the ultimate responsibility for a potential hard Brexit, which Johnson has pledged to deliver by the end of October without any further delay, would rest with the British government, not the bloc.
Boris Johnson’s team has started negotiating his proposals for a new deal with political rivals, Labour MPs, in an apparent bid to secure Commons support ahead of the Queen’s speech in Parliament and subsequent vote on the updated Brexit agenda, The Independent reported. For instance, Labour MP Lisa Nandy revealed that there had been talks between her party colleagues and cabinet members as of late, with 40 rebels reportedly determined to support Johnson’s revamped proposal.
The straightforward politician took to Twitter on 4 October to address the extension issue, arguing that Britain may take one of the two paths: "a new deal or no deal", "but no delay", he thundered.