BORIS Johnson has been told he could lose his taxpayer-funded lawyers if he continues to “undermine” the government’s position on the Covid-19 public inquiry.

Late last week, the former prime minister put pressure on the current Prime Minister after he handed over “all unredacted WhatsApps” from his phone directly to Baroness Hallett, the former appeal court judge presiding over the probe. 

That came just hours after the UK Government launched legal action in a bid to see off the inquiry’s request for all messages, diaries and notebooks.

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The government has argued that some of the information demanded is "unambiguously irrelevant."

But Mr Johnson said he was “unwilling” to let his material become “a test case for others.”

In a letter sent last week, and seen by the Sunday Times, the Cabinet Office told the ex-Tory leader they would only pick up the tab for his lawyers if he obeyed certain conditions. 

"The funding offer will cease to be available to you if you knowingly seek to frustrate or undermine, either through your own actions or the actions of others, the government's position in relation to the inquiry unless there is a clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest on a particular point at issue."

The government department said Mr Johnson should not submit evidence until he had "applied any redactions" which the Cabinet Office had informed him were "needed before submission".

They also said he should run any witness statement past them first.

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Immigration minister Robert Jenrick said it was “entirely up to the former prime minister how he co-operates with the inquiry”.

The Home Office minister told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If he wishes to send his documents or WhatsApp messages to them then he’s at liberty to do so.

“He can advance whatever arguments he wants to and make whatever statements he wishes in his witness statement to the inquiry.

“There’s absolutely no sense that the Government will restrict what Boris Johnson wants to say, but if you use taxpayer funds obviously you should make sure you’re using them appropriately.”

Allies of Mr Johnson believe the government is bringing the legal action because they worry it could set a precedent and the inquiry could soon come after the messages of serving ministers, including Rishi Sunak.

Mr Jenrick told Sky: “We want to hand over to the Covid Inquiry absolutely anything that has anything to do with Covid-19 or the purpose of the inquiry.

“Where there’s a point of difference is that we don’t think it’s sensible or reasonable to hand over documents or messages that have nothing whatever to do with Covid-19.”

As a former lawyer, he said, the “normal way to do this is to set reasonable parameters” but not to ask for things “wholly unrelated”.

He insisted the UK Government was not asking for “special treatment”.

“I hope this can be resolved indeed even before the matter gets to court,” he added.

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The Cabinet Office insisted the letter to Mr Johnson was “intended to protect public funds.”

They told the BBC it had been sent last week, and the corporation reported that it had not been issued in response to any recent event.

Former culture secretary Nadine Dorries, a staunch ally of the former Tory leader, said it was “not a good look for the Government”.

Mr Johnson has so far not provided WhatsApp messages from before May 2021 because he needed a new phone after the celebrity gossip newsletter Popbitch pointed out that the number could be found with a quick Google. 

Mr Johnson told Baroness Hallett he would like to hand over the data stored on his old device, but that he needed to make sure it could be done so securely.