Cameron set to give up on UK-China investment fund

Former UK prime minister David Cameron has all but given up on his plan of launching a $1bn UK-China investment fund after relations nosedived between London and Beijing, according to people briefed on the situation.

Cameron, who is embroiled in the Greensill Capital scandal, agreed in 2017 to develop a fund seeking partnership opportunities between the UK and China that would focus on technology, healthcare, energy and manufacturing.

But potential investors, including banks such as Standard Chartered and HSBC, were reluctant to commit to the plan even though it had early support from the UK and Chinese governments.

Relations between the countries have deteriorated over the past year, with London criticising Beijing’s security crackdown in Hong Kong and its treatment of the Uyghur minority in Xinjiang province. The UK also decided to bar Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei from supplying Britain’s 5G mobile phone networks.

The UK-China investment fund proposal was an initiative of Peter Gummer, a Conservative peer. Cameron went into partnership with him in 2017.

One ally of the former UK premier said “very little has actually happened over the past two years”, and described the fund plan as almost moribund.

A spokesperson for Cameron said: “The UK-China fund has yet to be established.” Gummer did not respond to a request for comment.

When he was prime minister between 2010 and 2016, Cameron and his chancellor George Osborne embarked on a charm offensive with Beijing that partly focused on seeking Chinese investment in UK infrastructure.

Cameron had described the investment fund proposal as the product of a “golden era” in UK-China relations, having first discussed it with the Beijing authorities in September 2017, just weeks before he was named as its vice-chair.

The fund plan was billed as Cameron’s most ambitious commercial undertaking since stepping down as prime minister after losing the Brexit referendum in 2016.

But the lack of progress with the fund proposal, and his involvement in the Greensill affair, has highlighted how Cameron has struggled with some of his business initiatives since leaving Downing Street.

The Financial Times revealed in March how Cameron lobbied the government to try to secure the supply chain finance company access to a Bank of England Covid-19 loan scheme.

He was an adviser to Greensill, which collapsed in March, and last month admitted to mistakes over his lobbying for the company but said he had not broken any rules.

Cameron was granted share options in Greensill that could have been worth tens of millions of pounds had the company floated on the stock market as expected. Instead, after Greensill filed for administration, the shares are worthless.

Cameron has been summoned to give evidence to the House of Commons Treasury select committee, which is conducting an inquiry into the Greensill affair.

The former premier had been charging at least £120,000 an hour for speeches through his agency, the Washington Speakers Bureau, which describes him as “one of the most prominent global influencers of the early 21st century”. However, the work dried up during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In contrast to Cameron, Osborne has enjoyed a stellar career since leaving parliament.

He secured several roles, including editor of the London Evening Standard newspaper and senior adviser to BlackRock, the asset management firm, before giving them up in February to join the boutique investment bank Robey Warshaw.

[optin-cat id=7010]