PM jets off to India as Partygate storm still rages in Westminster

PM jets off to India as Partygate storm still rages in Westminster

Boris Johnson attempts to wave goodbye to Partygate row – for 48 hours at least – as he jets off to Gujarat with the aim of persuading India to loosen its ties with Russia

  • Boris Johnson boards a flight to Gujarat to begin his two-day visit to India
  • The trip will see the PM skip a Commons vote on a fresh Partygate investigation
  • No10 says the PM will not seek to ‘lecture’ India over its relationship with Russia

Boris Johnson has boarded a plane for India as he attempts to take a 48-hour break from the Partygate storm still raging in Westminster.

The Prime Minister this afternoon clambered aboard his flight to Gujarat, where he will begin his two-day visit in India.

The trip will see Mr Johnson skip a House of Commons vote tomorrow on whether he should be referred to a parliamentary committee for a fresh Partygate investigation.

MPs will be asked to decide whether the PM should be subject to a probe into allegations he intentionally misled the Commons with his past denials of Covid rule-breaking in Downing Street.

It follows the PM’s police fine over his 56th birthday bash in Number 10 in June 2020, which the Metropolitan Police found to be a breach of Coronavirus regulations.

Ahead of his trip to India, Mr Johnson promised to use the visit to continue his push for countries to cut their economic ties – including imports of oil and gas – with Russia.

The PM has been a key player in Western efforts to starve Vladimir Putin of cash to fund his brutal invasion of Ukraine.

Concerns have been expressed that India’s failure to wholeheartedly condemn Russia for the conflict in Ukraine are due to the country’s economic, diplomatic and military links with Moscow.

But Mr Johnson will not seek to ‘lecture’ India on its relationship with Mr Putin’s regime during his visit, Downing Street has said.

The Prime Minister this afternoon clambered aboard a flight to Gujarat from Stansted Airport. The trip will see Boris Johnson skip a House of Commons vote tomorrow on whether he should be referred to a parliamentary committee for a fresh Partygate investigation

Ahead of his trip to India, the PM promised to use the visit to continue his push for countries to cut their economic ties – including imports of oil and gas – with Russia

Mr Johnson will not seek to ‘lecture’ India on its relationship with Vladimir Putin’s regime during his visit, Downing Street has said

The PM is due to meet with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on Friday for talks.

The pair’s meeting will also see the announcement of new collaborations on defence and green energy between the UK and India.

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman said: ‘We will be looking to secure new partnerships on trade, technology and defence on the visit that will include significant new investment on jobs announcements and science partnership.

‘In Delhi we’ll be announcing a new collaboration on defence and green energy.’

The PM’s plans to visit India have twice previously been cancelled.

This was first over the UK’s winter wave of Covid infections and then in April last year in response to a new Coronavirus variant hitting India.

This week’s trip is not directly linked to the Ukraine crisis, but Mr Johnson’s spokesman said it ‘will of course be a topic of discussion’.

Narendra Modi met with Mr Putin in December last year. Concerns have been expressed that India’s failure to wholeheartedly condemn Russia for the conflict in Ukraine are due to the country’s economic, diplomatic and military links with Moscow 

Downing Street expressed hope that a post-Brexit free trade deal between Britain and India could be reached this year – but there was an admission it could take longer.

The PM’s spokesman said: ‘We don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed and our ambition is to reach it by the end of the year.

‘But we recognise negotiations can take longer if you’re seeking to secure the best possible deal for both sides.’

The spokesman said the deal needs to be ‘fair’ and ‘reciprocal’ while being consistent with Britain’s new post-Brexit points-based immigration system.

Asked if he was ruling out reducing visa fees for those in India or a working holiday agreement for its young people, the spokesman said: ‘I’m conscious that I can’t get too much into the detail of ongoing negotiations. 

‘The point I’m trying to make is immigration is not routinely a formal part of trade talks and our broad position on this is that any agreement will have to be consistent with a points-based immigration system.’

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