Friday , April 16 2021

Andrew Sparrow's election briefing: Johnson plots 'buy British' policy – The Guardian, Theguardian.com


Andrew Sparrow's election briefing

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Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson announced plans for government procurement for when the UK leaves the EU. Photograph: Chris J Ratcliffe / Getty Images

Move appears designed to woo Labor leave voters

Boris Johnson has announced plans to extend the use of job-projecting state aidand to implement a ‘buy British’ policyfor government procurement when the UK leaves the EU. He announced both policies, which seemed intended to appeal in particular to Labor-leaning leave voters, in a rare press conference where he appeared alongside his colleagues from the Vote Leave campaign, Michael Gove and Gisela Stuart. In the past it has mostly been Labor Brexiters who have complained about EU state aid rules limiting the ability of the government to use subsidies to help struggling companies, while the Conservatives have been wary of policies that meddle with market economics. But at the news conference Johnson claimed that change was necessary because “the ramifications of EU state aid rules are felt everywhere”. The Institute of Directors, a free-market business organization, and the Institute of Economic Affairs, a libertarian thinktank, both strongly criticized the new Tory approach, with the IoD describing thisas “like a bad solution in search of the wrong problem” .Butthe small print of the Conservative announcementsuggests that Johnson is planning relatively modest changes to the current regime, rather than a wholesale shift towards 1970 s socialism, and it has also been pointed out that any attempt to diverge very far from current EU-style rules would make negotiating a UK-EU free trade deal much harder. At his press conference Johnson also insisted that the Conservatives were the change option at the election, because no other party would take advantages of the opportunities for reform offered by Brexit. There is a full summary of the press conferencehere.

  • Johnson has praised the police and members of the public who intervened to tackle a terrorist suspect on London Bridge.The man was shot dead by police. Follow the latest developments ona separate live blog.

  • Johnson has refused to disclose how many children he hasor whether he is involved in their lives.He was speaking on an LBC phone-in during which he was strongly criticized over past comments about single mothers.

  • Johnson has claimed that the government has several trade deals “oven-ready” for when the UK leaves the EU.On the LBC phone-in, he was asked how many trade deals with other countries were in place. The UK is not allowed to formally start trade talks with other countries until after it has left the EU, but it wants to have them ready for when the post-Brexit transition period ends, at the end of 2020 according to current plans. Asked how many trade deals had actually been agreed, Johnson replied:

There are a number that are oven-ready … There are a number that are virtually ready to go.

Johnson also repeated his claim that the UK would be able to agree a trade deal with the EU by the end of next year.Sir Ivan Rogers, the former UK ambassador to the EU, is one of many experts who have saidJohnson is not being honest about the difficulties he will face.

  • School leaders and teaching unionshave reacted with dismayto the Conservative party’s plans for longer and more disruptive Ofsted inspections, with one warning the changes would “do more harm than good” if implemented.

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