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Business leaders deplore Boris Johnson’s conference speech

written by Bella Palmer
boris-johnson

Mr Johnson defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labour after Brexit, insisting his new approach would ultimately create a low-tax economy

Boris Johnson’s conference speech has been heavily condemned by business leaders for lacking a coherent economic plan.

On the last day of the Conservative Party conference, Mr Johnson said he was setting out the “difficult” process of reshaping the British economy.

With labour shortages hitting supply chains, leading to empty shelves and queues at petrol stations, Mr Johnson defended his strategy of restricting the supply of cheap foreign labour after Brexit, insisting his new approach would ultimately create a low-tax economy.

In a swipe at those who have challenged the government over labour shortages, he said: We are not going back to the same old broken model with low wages, low growth, low skills and low productivity, all of it enabled and assisted by uncontrolled immigration.

The answer is to control immigration to allow people of talent to come to this country, but not to use immigration as an excuse for failure to invest in people, skills and equipment, he said.

In his address to the final day of the Conservative party conference, the Prime Minister invoked the spirit of care workers and the drive of entrepreneurs to underpin his aim to narrow the health and wealth gaps in Britain.

But businesses leaders have criticised this approach, with many arguing that restricting migration could lead to higher inflation and increase costs on the consumers.

Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland and Leave voter, complained about the Government treating businesses like an “endless sponge”.

He told the Times: The finger is being pointed at business as the bogeyman, but it’s much wider than that. We want to pay our people as much as possible but business is not an endless sponge that can keep absorbing costs in one go.

Next year we’ll have a wave of higher costs in one go. Next year we’ll have a wave of higher costs from higher energy bills, extra HGV drivers, packaging costs. We can only weather many cost increases at once, so they need to tape it, he said.

The Federation of Small Businesses criticised the conference speech, noting Labour and not the Conservatives, are the only party with a “pro-small business policy”.

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