Byline Times has information that the prime minister’s backing by hedge funds invested in a hard Brexit is coming under scrutiny by the Cabinet Office.

The Cabinet Office has been asked to investigate whether Boris Johnson could be in breach of the ministerial code by not declaring any financial connection to hedge fund donors who contributed substantially to his leadership election campaign.

A complaint was lodged in August with Helen MacNamara, director-general of the Propriety and Ethics Team, about Johnson’s financial connections to the bankrollers of his leadership campaign. This was before Byline Times revealed the extent of Johnson’s reliance on hedge fund donors, many of whom funded the Vote Leave campaign in 2016 which Boris Johnson paid a prominent role.

The Cabinet Office responded to Byline Times request for comment by asking for more details of the original complaint before confirming the status of the investigation. A spokesperson subsequently responded: “We don’t comment on individual cases or private correspondence.”

The public interest in hedge fund companies is highlighted by the fact that Boris was the sole Tory candidate for the leadership who fixed a firm date for Britain to leave the EU “do or die” on October 31. His main rival, Jeremy Hunt, made it clear that if a deal was near he would be prepared to extend the leaving date by a few days. From evidence lodged at the Electoral Commission, Byline Times has discovered Johnson received £375,000 from hedge fund associated donors compared to £45,000 for Hunt. 

“It could be Cummings advising the PM to be extremely aggressive… It could be people who have invested billions in shorting the pound in expectation of a no-deal Brexit.”

Rachel Johnson, BBC World at One

A precise date for a market-moving event such as a ‘no deal’ Brexit could be significant for hedge funds as they speculate on the fluctuation of foreign exchanges and share prices. A ‘no deal’ exit from the EU could lead to a big drop in the pound and a fall in stock values which could be highly profitable to those taking short positions.

The Prorogation Plan

Disclosures in a Channel Four documentary Tories at War on Sunday revealed that one of the hedge fund owners who contributed to Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign, Crispin Odey, appeared to be aware of a plan to ‘suspend’ Parliament in late July, the day before Johnson won the leadership contest. This was a month before the government’s plan to prorogue Parliament was leaked by the Observer

In 2016, Odey and his partner made £350m overnight by speculating on sterling and moving in gold when the shock EU referendum result caused the pound to tumble. He had donated over £800,000 to Leave campaigns during the Brexit referendum.

In early August this year, The Times revealed that Odey Asset Management had placed £299 million in short positions on some of Britain’s biggest firms around the date for a possible ‘no deal’ Brexit.

Since then, Johnson has withdrawn the whip from 21 Tory MPs and lost control of Parliament. Though the prime minister was forced to accept the new Benn Act which could postpone the UK leaving until January 31 next year, he still refused to request an extension from the EU and by proroguing Parliament left ‘no deal’ as the most likely outcome. The decision of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to declare the prorogation unlawful has left him facing further scrutiny over his Brexit plans in the House of Commons.

During the recalled parliamentary session on Wednesday, former Attorney General Dominic Grieve observed from a “leaked document” from the current Attorney General Geoffrey Cox that  “as far back as July… Prorogation was first being mooted in order to achieve a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.”

Cox confirmed that suspending Parliament was being discussed around the time Odey was interviewed by Channel 4 but said he would have resigned if this action was taken.

“It was being mooted some weeks ago that Parliament might be prorogued from the beginning of September or even earlier until 31 October,” Cox told Parliament: “I say straightaway to him that if that had been the proposition, I could not have stayed in the Cabinet while it was done.”

On Thursday the prime minister’s sister Rachel Johnson told BBC World at One that the hedge funds could be driving her brother’s behaviour or Dominic Cummings, his chief of staff.

“It could be Cummings advising the PM to be extremely aggressive…” Rachel Johnson told the BBC: “It could be people who have invested billions in shorting the pound in expectation of a no-deal Brexit.”

Under the ministerial code, ministers should neither have any financial conflicts of interest nor the appearance of any conflicts of interest. 


Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

This article was updated at 11:40 on 27/09/19 to incorporate a statement from the Cabinet Office.

New to Byline Times? Find out more about us


A new type of newspaper – independent, fearless, outside the system. Fund a better media.

Don’t miss a story! Sign up to our newsletter (and get a free edition posted to you)

Our leading investigations include: empire & the culture warBrexit, crony contractsRussian interferencethe Coronavirus pandemicdemocracy in danger, and the crisis in British journalism. We also introduce new voices of colour in Our Lives Matter.

More stories filed under Disaster Capitalism Club

Hedge Fund Feudalism: Right to Roam Goes to War

, 20 January 2023
Max Colbert reports from Dartmoor where a Court Ruling has provoked a mass demonstration this weekend over the ancient right to camp in the National Park

EXCLUSIVE The Great Contraction: How the End of Cheap Money and Energy Will Degrade or Renew Civilisation

, 28 November 2022
Nafeez Ahmed predicted the 2008 financial crash. But it was not resolved and has led to a more profound crisis which will require a major restructuring of the global economy to survive

Exposing the Conservative Hedge Fund Scandal: Better Late than Never – Or Too Little Too Late?

, 3 October 2022
As Kwasi Kwarteng faces questions over his attendance at a cocktail party with financiers, Byline Times’ Editor Hardeep Matharu asks why this newspaper’s warnings from three years ago about the influence of hedge fund donors in politics were ignored

More stories filed under Reportage

Strikers Could Face Prison Under New Protest Law, Say Legal Experts

, 27 January 2023
The Public Order Act – launched to clamp down on groups like Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil – could be used against trade unionists too

Government Condemns Iran’s Human Rights Abuses – While Threatening Iranian Refugees with Deportation to Rwanda

, 27 January 2023
Sian Norris speaks to an Iranian refugee about the impact of the Rwanda scheme on people seeking asylum from the repressive regime

Concerns that Government’s Finance Bill Benefits Big Money and Harms the Planet

, 27 January 2023
The Financial Services and Markets Bill risks wrecking the UK's commitment to net zero, writes Thomas Perrett

More from the Byline Family