Boris Johnson’s former ethics adviser Lord Geidt has said he quit the post on “an important issue of principle”.

In a letter clarifying his position, Lord Geidt said the “cautious language” in his letter of resignation may have led to the conclusion he was standing down over “some narrow technical consideration of steel tariff”.

However he said this was a “distraction” and that his real concern was over the Government’s “widely publicised openness” to breaking international law.

“I could not be a party to advising on any potential law-breaking,” he said in the letter obtained by Sky News.

The revelation could heap further pressure on Johnson who today pulled out of a conference for Tory MPs form the north of England, in Yorkshire where there is a by-election next, week to instead visit Ukraine.

The Conservatives are trailing in polling and critics said Johnson had hoped to link himself with the popular Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, while avoiding association with negative reactions had he visited Yorkshire.

During his surprise visit to Ukraine Johnson pledged to train to up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days for the country that is fighting a Russian invasion.

In his resignation letter published on Thursday, Lord Geidt said he had been placed in an “impossible and odious position” after he was asked to advise on measures which risked “a deliberate and purposeful breach of the Ministerial Code” – thought to refer to a dispute over tariffs on imported steel.

His explanation caused puzzlement at Westminster where, when the news of his resignation broke on Wednesday, it had been assumed he could no longer defend the Prime Minister over breaches of lockdown regulations in Downing Street and Whitehall.


However, writing to William Wragg, the chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Lord Geidt pointed to comments by the former cabinet secretary Lord Butler, who said the real issue was that he was being asked to give “advanced cover” to the Prime Minister for breaking international law.

“This represents my position precisely. Emphasis on the steel tariffs question is a distraction,” Lord Geidt said.

“It was simply one example of what might yet constitute deliberate breaches by the the United Kingdom of its obligations under international law, given the Government’s widely publicised openness to this.”

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