Johnson holds talks with business chiefs on competitiveness and Covid aftermath

Government sources deny the new Business Council is to look at ways to turn the UK into a ‘new Singapore’ with reduced workers’ rights.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is holding talks with business leaders on Monday to look at making the UK more competitive post-Brexit, and better able to deal with the economic aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

The Prime Minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are launching the new Business Council, with 30 members representing a wide spectrum of the British economy, including finance, science and technology, retail and hospitality.

Government sources steered away from the idea the committee was intended to find ways to turn the UK into the “Singapore of the Atlantic” with lower standards in order to better compete with the EU.

A Government source said: “This is not about reducing workers’ rights. But unnecessary burdens are a different matter, and a balance has to be struck.”

The Prime Minister was using the first meeting of the group to update business leaders on the latest coronavirus situation and plans to rebuild the economy in the wake of the health crisis.

The committee will examine ways of maintaining the UK’s position as a “science superpower” and how to “kickstart” the economy once the worst of the Covid pandemic has passed, the Government said.

International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will also attend the initial virtual meeting of the group.

Mr Johnson has admitted the UK faces a “huge economic challenge” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister said he wants the new forum to be a space for “frank feedback” from business on recovery plans.

The Business Council is set to meet every three months, but special sessions may be held if necessary.

Members, who serve on the committee for 12 months, include: British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle, BP chief executive Bernard Looney, BT chief executive Philip Jansen, group chairman of HSBC Mark Tucker, Lord Deighton, chairman of Heathrow Airport Holdings, Thierry Bollore, Jaguar Land Rover chief executive, and Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy.

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