Sat | Dec 14, 2019

Johnson faces questions about ties to US woman

Published:Tuesday | November 19, 2019 | 12:19 AM
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

LONDON (AP):

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced new questions Monday about his relationship with an American businesswoman who allegedly received favours and public funds while he was the mayor of London.

Johnson’s major speech to United Kingdom (UK) business leaders Monday ahead of Britain’s December 12 general election was overshadowed by tech entrepreneur Jennifer Arcuri, who accused the prime minister of discarding her “like some fleeting one-night stand” amid a media storm about their relationship.

A police watchdog is investigating claims that Johnson gave special treatment to Arcuri while he was mayor of London between 2008 and 2016. The Sunday Times reported in September that Arcuri was given financial grants and privileged access to trade missions to the United States, Israel and Asia that Johnson led as mayor.

Johnson has insisted that “everything was done with full propriety”.

In a series of UK media interviews, 34-year-old Arcuri said she had a “very special” relationship with Johnson lasting several years. Johnson, now 55, was married at the time.

“It was not just a sexual intention,” Arcuri told the BBC. “He actually was very intrigued by my energy.”

She accused the prime minister of ignoring her when she tried to contact him about how to handle the media fallout from the allegations. Speaking to broadcaster ITV, Arcuri said Johnson has now cast her aside “like some gremlin.”

“I’ve kept your secrets, and I’ve been your friend,” she said. “And I don’t understand why you’ve blocked me and ignored me as if I was some fleeting one-night stand or some girl that you picked up at a bar, because I wasn’t. And you know that.”

The Arcuri allegations erupted again as Johnson and the leaders of two opposition parties made their election pitches to business leaders, who are sceptical of politicians’ promises after years of economic uncertainty over Brexit.

Britain’s stalled departure from the European Union is the over­riding issue in campaigning for the UK’s December 12 election, which is being held two years early because Johnson is seeking to get a ­majority of lawmakers to pass his Brexit divorce deal with the European Union. All 650 seats in the House of Commons are up for grabs.

More than three years after the UK voted to leave the 28-nation bloc, the terms of the country’s departure and the nature of its future relationship with the EU remain unclear.

Conservative leader Johnson, Labour Party chief Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson all addressed a conference of employers’ group, the Confederation of British Industry, on Monday.

Johnson is campaigning on a promise to take Britain out of the EU on the new scheduled date of January 31, saying that doing so will end the uncertainty that has weighed on business investment and confidence.

“The worst thing now is the continuing economic uncertainty: people waiting to take on new staff, or invest in property, or just to invest in this country,” Johnson said.

He did not mention that Britain’s departure will be followed by many months – and potentially many years – of negotiations with the EU on the future economic relationship.