UK PM, finance minister to meet business leaders on COVID recovery

FILE PHOTO: Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak arrive for a Cabinet meeting, in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

LONDON (Reuters) – Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak will ask 30 business leaders on Monday for their thoughts on economic policy, part of efforts to explore ways of boosting growth in Britain outside the European Union.

After completing Britain’s journey out of the EU on Dec. 31, Johnson, a figurehead of the Brexit campaign, is talking to businesses about policy ideas to boost growth now that the country is no longer bound by the bloc’s rules.

This is seen as increasingly pressing because the coronavirus pandemic, which has flared again largely because of a highly contagious new variant, has plunged Britain into a worse economic slump than almost all of its peers.

Alongside Sunak, Johnson will speak to the leaders of some of Britain’s largest companies, including British Airways, BT, pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline and the country’s biggest carmaker, Indian-owned Jaguar Land Rover.

“The council later today is co-chaired by the prime minister and the chancellor and it will be an opportunity for members to share their views on the economy and provide a perspective on policy in terms of the economic recovery as we move through, and hopefully out of the pandemic,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

The government is also setting up a “better regulation committee”, also chaired by Sunak, which will review regulation in Britain now the country is outside the European Union to try to better stimulate growth and attract new investment.

Last week, the government denied a report that it was planning to lower standards on workers’ rights, but some officials say ministers are looking at ways to “capitalise” on being able to diverge from EU rules and regulations.

Some sources have suggested that ministers are looking at ways to boost investment in green and new technology, by pooling together research scientists and product developers in certain regions to replicate a kind of Silicon Valley.

Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, editing by Estelle Shirbon

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