There is a risk UK warned of Qatar influence after EU scandal

David Beckham issues statement over criticism of Qatar support

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The EU remains embroiled in controversy as 10 Brussels officials are investigated over alleged corruption linked to Qatar. However, an expert tells that the UK could also be vulnerable to a similar scandal given the growing relationship between Doha and London.

Greek MEP and a vice-president of the European Parliament, Eva Kaili, was the most high-profile figure under scrutiny. She was arrested last week after police seized more than €900,000 belonging to her and her husband.

Ms Kaili has denied the allegations put against her, and the Qatari state has also warned its relationship with the EU could be damaged over the investigations.

James Lynch, a former diplomat who worked in Doha, tells that the UK must also remain “vigilant” to ensure British parliamentarians are not involved in similar controversies.

He said: “I certainly think there is a need for a high level of vigilance in the UK with parliamentarians and their relationships with states who want to influence them. All party groups are particularly vulnerable.

“My sense is that the European Parliament has been more relevant and important because it does work around human rights-based resolutions, but I think the UK parliament definitely has a risk around this issue.

“This is why transparency is so important because it allows us to see who is accepting hospitality from who. The more you can keep in the light, that creates an environment where relationships have to remain transparent.

“There is always a risk and this sort of thing has happened in the past. If anyone was relaxed about this, the recent events in the EU have been a massive wake-up call.”

Since October last year, Qatar has spent more than £260,000 in gifts, hospitality and travel for MPs.

All of these trips and gifts were declared by the MPs in question and were within Parliamentary rules, but some fear this could impact the UK’s ability to hold Qatar accountable for its human rights issues.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, told Politico last week: “No politician should be taking money or lavish trips from Qatar. Instead, they should be speaking out against the regime’s extensive human rights violations.”

Some MPs defended their decision to accept these gifts and trips when approached for comment by the news outlet.

Tory MP Jackie Doyle Price, who has received a total value of £7,374 in gifts and trips from Qatar, said: “It is precisely to challenge them on their human rights record that we go on these trips … If we are going to moralise at Qatar we should be a bit more honest with ourselves about our own shortcomings.”

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Labour’s Shadow Minister for Roads, Gill Furniss, added that she went there “in order to have full and frank discussions with political leaders on their human rights record” and was “disappointed by the lack of progress.”

Chris Bryant, Labour MP for Rhondda, said he “forcefully put our human rights concerns to the Qatari authorities” but “they didn’t want to listen and it all felt wrong.”

The code of conduct which MPs must abide by does also state that they cannot initiate any parliamentary proceeding that “would have the effect of conferring any financial or material benefit on a foreign government … which has, within the previous six months, funded a visit they have undertaken or provided them with hospitality.”

Despite criticism of Qatar’s alleged human rights violations and treatment of migrant workers during preparations for the FIFA World Cup, the country has built increasingly strong ties with the UK.

Britain is a key customer of Qatari gas. The Gulf State supplies about nine percent of the UK’s energy imports.

King Charles III accepted over £2million in donations from a former Qatari political leader in 2015 – the money was donated to the now monarch’s charitable foundation.

In September, Qatar secured the ownership of 24 fighter jets built in Britain in a deal worth £5billion.

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