Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami cancels pro-Brexit research group subscription

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Chris McAndrew

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Chris McAndrew - Credit: Archant

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami has cancelled his subscription to a research group that lobbies for Brexit, saying he no longer needs it.

Mr Afolami no longer subscribes to the Conservative backbench European Research Group, headed by Jacob Rees-Mogg. The ERG has been called a hard-Brexit pressure group, though Mr Afolami – who backed Remain in the 2016 EU membership referendum – disputes this.

Speaking to this newspaper from Washington DC, where he is for talks on tax reform and trade, Mr Afolami said: “It was a very helpful research tool, especially during the passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill – but I don’t need it any more as I’m much more on top of the legislative process and parliamentary activity after eight months in the job now.”

The move comes after this paper last month revealed Mr Afolami’s ERG subscription, which was paid for by £2,000 claimed on expenses.

Outlining the talks he has had in the United States, including at the Pentagon, the Hitchin and Harpenden MP said the most important takeaway was the “much increased support and strength for the relationship with the UK on defence and aerospace, which are big employers locally”.

He specifically cited Stevenage missile manufacturer MBDA, and American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin – which has its main UK facility at Ampthill.

Turning to Brexit, former banker Mr Afolami said he did not foresee it impacting much on financial services in the short term – but that it was vital the City of London retained its position as a global trade hub.

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He said some in the EU might try to exploit Brexit to grab business from London, and that Theresa May’s government had to “defend the City, and make sure we retain our global reputation as the best place to do financial services in the world.”

He added that most companies he spoke to were keen to keep the UK open to the most talented people from all over the world.

Mr Afolami said the biggest danger financial services businesses reported to him was not Brexit, but the possibility of a Jeremy Corbyn government.

“They are ready to pull their money and jobs out of the City overnight if he were to win an election,” he said. “That would mean tens of thousands of jobs in the City gone for Hitchin and Harpenden constitutents, many of whom work there.

“For those who don’t work in the City, and might think it doesn’t matter, we should remember it provides over £70 billion of revenue to the government.”

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