In a letter to the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, Lord Geidt said there had been “confusion” about his decision to resign two days ago after No10 suggested it had been prompted by a row over steel tariffs.
Announcing his resignation on Wednesday, Lord Geidt said he had been narrowly clinging on in the role through the partygate scandal but ultimately quit after being forced into an “impossible and odious” position by the Prime Minister.
Downing Street sources later suggested that his resignation had been linked to a situation in which he had been asked to give advice over the imposition of steel tariffs to protect UK firms, the Telegraph reported.
Responding to the news on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the resignation letter “came as a surprise”, adding “my intention was to seek your advice on the national interest in protecting a crucial industry”.
But in a new letter publicised on Friday evening, Lord Geidt said that the “emphasis on steel tariffs is a distraction” and that the language in his original letter had been “cautious”.
“It was simply one example of what might yet constitute deliberate breaches by the United Kingdom of its obligations under international law, given the Government’s widely publicised openness to this,” he added.
Lord Geidt noted that, while reference to international law had been removed from the Ministerial Code in 2015, it was “widely still held that a breach of international law would, in turn, represent a prima facie breach of the Ministerial Code”.
“Conscious of my own obligations under the Seven Principles of Public Life (including integrity), I could not be a party to advising on any potential law-breaking,” he said.
Lord Geidt had taken over the role following the resignation of Sir Alex Allan, who quit after Mr Johnson overruled the findings of his investigation into allegations of bullying by Priti Patel.
Downing Street sparked controversy after suggesting that Mr Johnson may not seek to replace Lord Geidt with a new ethics advisor.
Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner called for the appointment of a new watchdog and said: “There are now no ethics left in this Downing Street regime propped up in office by a Conservative Party mired in sleaze and totally unable to tackle the cost-of-living crisis facing the British people.”