U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak were fined by police on Tuesday for breaching Covid-19 lockdown rules, reigniting calls for the embattled ministers to resign.
The announcement means Johnson will become the first sitting prime minister in living memory to have been found breaking the law.
Johnson and Sunak “have today received notification that the Metropolitan Police intend to issue them with fixed penalty notices,” a spokesperson at Downing Street said in a statement. “We have no further details, but we will update you again when we do,” they added.
It was later confirmed that the police issued the fixed penalty notice for Johnson in relation to a gathering of two or more people held at 10 Downing Street on June 19, 2020 — the prime minister’s birthday. Johnson later apologized in a statement and said he had paid the fine in full.
“There was a brief gathering in the Cabinet Room shortly after 2 p.m., lasting less than 10 minutes, during which people I worked with passed on their good wishes. … At that time it did not occur to me this might have been a breach of the rules,” Johnson said.
“The police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.”
Sunak also apologized later on Tuesday evening. Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called for the two Conservative Party lawmakers to resign, saying they had both repeatedly lied to the public.
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, echoed this sentiment, while Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he did not see how Johnson could continue.
“You can’t be a law-maker and a law-breaker,” Drakeford said via Twitter. “He has clearly broken the laws he made and asked people to follow. People are angry and upset. I don’t see how someone in this position can carry on.”
Carrie Johnson, the prime minister’s wife, has also been notified that she is to receive a fine for Covid lockdown breaches, her spokesperson said, according to Sky News.
The Metropolitan Police said earlier Tuesday they had made an additional 30 referrals to 20 fixed penalty notices as part of an investigation into illegal gatherings at the prime minister’s office and residence.
The Met had been investigating 12 gatherings in Downing Street and Whitehall alleged to have broken Covid lockdown rules.
Johnson has so far resisted calls to resign over the “partygate” scandal despite sustained public anger. It had previously been expected that a police fine for Johnson over Covid lockdown breaches could trigger a no-confidence vote.
However, Conservative lawmakers are now seen as likely to hold off on submitting the necessary number of no-confidence letters, citing the government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a top priority.
Johnson’s leadership has been under immense pressure following a series of allegations that government staff, including Johnson at times, had attended multiple parties and gatherings at a time of strict public health measures to curb the spread of Covid.
Sunak, too, has come under pressure in recent weeks. The finance minister has faced questions over his past U.S. residency and his wife’s tax affairs.