Italian airport quashes claims of Boris Johnson’s secret trip

No 10 says reports ‘completely untrue’ adding that PM was at son’s baptism in London

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson had held a meeting with Conservative MPs via Zoom on Friday. Photograph: Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP

Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson had held a meeting with Conservative MPs via Zoom on Friday. Photograph: Aaron Chown / POOL / AFP

 

An Italian airport has quashed reports the British prime minister landed there to make a secretive trip to the country less than a fortnight ago, a claim described by Downing Street as “completely untrue”.

Citing unnamed sources, La Repubblica and Umbria 24 on Sunday reported that Johnson landed in Perugia on September 11th and left on September 14th. The story emerged after the airport issued a statement on September 17th boasting about the arrivals of a host of VIPs, including Boris Johnson and former prime minister Tony Blair “in recent days”.

No 10 issued a firm rebuttal of the report on Monday morning, saying Johnson had held a meeting with Conservative MPs via Zoom on Friday September 11th, and had attended his son’s baptism service on Saturday September 12th.

The president of Perugia’s San Francesco d’Assisi airport said on Monday afternoon there had been an “error” in previous communication and that Johnson did not recently land there.

“He absolutely did not recently land in Perugia. In recent years, yes, he passed through, but not recently,” Stefano Panato told the Guardian. “I have checked the registries and spoken to people, this is the official denial.”

Panato said the newspapers’ sources may have mistaken Mr Blair for Mr Johnson. “Tony Blair arrived the 13th and left 14th. Someone said the British prime minister had passed through but the British prime minister is no longer Tony Blair,” he said.

The Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported on Mr Johnson’s alleged trip to Italy after the Barcelona footballer Luis Suarez flew into Perugia on September 17th . The airport issued a press release saying that as well as Suarez, Mr Johnson had also arrived there in recent days.

La Repubblica said that after it made inquiries about the Johnson trip, the airport, confirmed he had landed there during the week before Suarez came.

The newspaper cited one airport staff member as saying the British PM arrived either on September 11th, or the day before. Another source said he had arrived on Friday September 11th at 2pm and left on Monday September 14th at 7.45am.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “This story is completely untrue. The prime minister has not travelled to Italy in recent months. Anyone who publishes these claims is repeating a falsehood.”

A spokesperson for Westminster Cathedral confirmed that baby Wilfred was baptised into the Catholic church in a private service on September 12th by r Daniel Humphreys. There were fewer than 30 guests at the ceremony as required by Covid restrictions, the spokesperson said.

The Catholic church requires at least one parent to practise the faith in order to have a child baptised. Mr Johnson was baptised a Catholic but was confirmed in the Church of England - in effect converting to Anglicanism - when he was at Eton, although he has never been a regular churchgoer. His partner, Carrie Symonds’ Catholicism was not widely known until now.

The claim of Mr Johnson making a seemingly undercover visit to Perugia was especially intriguing as he had done it before. In April 2018, while he was foreign secretary, Mr Johnson was photographed looking somewhat dishevelled at San Francesco d’Assisi airport.

It emerged that Mr Johnson had stayed at Palazzo Terranova, a restored castle owned by the media billionaire and socialite Evgeny Lebedev, who is renowned for holding lavish parties.

The pictures of Mr Johnson at the airport suggested he went to Italy without a police escort. According to another passenger on the flight back to the UK, Mr Johnson was on his own, apparently without any luggage and very much the worse for wear. – Guardian News and Media