Boris Johnson announces new India investment deals as partygate debate continues


Boris Johnson has announced a set of investment and export deals with India as he undertakes a two-day trip to the country.

He is due to discuss trade and security ties with his counterpart Narendra Modi in India’s capital New Delhi on Friday.

Meanwhile in Westminster, MPs will decide whether to investigate Mr Johnson over lockdown parties held in No 10.

The government wants to delay a vote on a probe into whether the PM misled MPs.

Labour is putting forward a motion to refer the prime minister to the privileges committee, so it can look at whether he misled the House over his statements on the law-breaking events – a resigning offence in the ministerial code.

But the government wants to delay any decision with its own proposal, saying the vote on whether to trigger the investigation should wait until probes by the Met Police and civil servant Sue Gray have concluded.

Mr Johnson arrived in Gujarat, India’s fifth-largest state, on Thursday – his first major trip to the country as PM after previous visits were postponed because of Covid.

The deals he announced will be across industries, from software engineering to healthcare, as well as a collaboration on satellite launches.

It is claimed they will be worth £1bn to the British economy, promising 11,000 jobs in the UK as a result.

But the prime minister will also use the visit to push for a post-Brexit free trade deal with India, with a fresh round of negotiations set to begin in the country next week.

Difficult conversations on the invasion of Ukraine are also likely, given India’s strong ties with Russia.

The country has not criticised Russia directly since it invaded and did not join the condemnation during a United Nations vote on the issue.

The UK has been trying to persuade India to reduce its reliance on Russia, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss travelling to the country last month for talks.

But the PM told reporters on the flight to Gujarat that the UK had to recognise the historic relationship between Moscow and New Delhi.

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On the plane to India, Boris Johnson parried away questions about parties.

Asked if there were any circumstances he would consider resigning if he got more fines, Mr Johnson said he wasn’t going to speculate – but insisted he would fight the next election.

He said politicians were better off focussing on things that mattered to voters, rather than talking about themselves.

Of course, the slow burning fuse of the Met’s investigation and the eventual publication of Sue Gray’s report into Downing Street parties could plunge his premiership into crisis once again.

But Boris Johnson hopes this trip will show him getting on with business.

A free trade deal with India will not be signed on this visit, but Mr Johnson said the UK was aiming for one by the end of the year.

But difficult conversations are likely on Ukraine.

The prime minister was also very downbeat on the prospects of a negotiated end to the crisis given what he called President Putin’s manifest lack of good faith.

The visit comes as Mr Johnson continues to face pressure at home over lockdown parties in No 10 during the pandemic.

Last week, he, his wife and Chancellor Rishi Sunak received fines from the police for attending a birthday party thrown for him in the Cabinet Room in June 2020.

The PM repeatedly apologised to the Commons on Tuesday for what he called his “mistake” and has denied misleading the House, despite previously telling MPs that no Covid laws were broken in Downing Street.

But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer branded his statement as “a joke”, while both the SNP and Liberal Democrats reiterated calls for him to resign.

Labour’s motion to refer him to the privileges committee to be investigated will be debated by MPs on Thursday morning and has the support of nearly all opposition parties in the House.

Some rebel Tory MPs were threatening to vote with Labour, or to abstain – meaning even with Mr Johnson’s large majority, the plan could be approved.

But the government is trying to put off any vote until after existing investigations into the law-breaking are concluded, saying it will allow the committee “to have all the facts at their disposal”.

A Labour source said any Conservative MP who voted for this timetable would be voting for a cover up.

Mr Johnson may receive multiple fines over lockdown parties, having attended at least two more events under investigation by the Met, and reported to have been at three more.

But the PM said he preferred to focus on “the things that make a real difference” to the public rather than “politicians themselves.”

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