The Daily Telegraph

Johnson pledges to get economy back on an ‘even keel’ in 4 years

In discussion­s with backbench Tories, the PM is optimistic about the UK’S economic recovery

- By Christophe­r Hope Chief Political Correspond­ent

BORIS JOHNSON last night pledged to get the economy back on an “even keel” well before the next general election in 2024.

In a meeting with backbench Tory MPS at the House of Commons, an upbeat Prime Minister told them that the Government was optimistic about the economic recovery as the coronaviru­s lockdown eases.

Mr Johnson spoke for 45 minutes to around 100 MPS – some there in person, others by video link – at the endof-term meeting with the party’s 1922 Committee of backbenche­rs.

According to MPS there, he answered around a dozen questions covering the economy, further easing in the lockdown and relations with China after the row over banning Huawei from the UK’S 5G network.

On covering the £200billion cost of responding to the coronaviru­s pandemic one MP said: “He was very bullish [saying] ‘we are going to get the public finances back on track as quickly as possible’.”

The MP added: “He was saying: ‘well before the next general election... we will be back on an even keel’. So it depends on the recovery of the economy.”

According to another MPS’ report, Mr Johnson added: “We cannot be complacent.” He said the party could not afford to “lose our discipline and focus”. Mr Johnson warned backbench MPS they could not lift lockdown too quickly and risk a spike in cases like in the US. The UK had “to be careful to avoid the situation that is going on in the States”, one source said, adding that the US had “eased the lockdown too soon and are suffering as a result”.

He told the MPS that the Government was “opening up as fast as we can,

‘We need to understand the Chinese and we should not be turning our back on them – we need to trade with them’

and proceeding as the science advises”.

The PM said he was worried about reopening the economy too quickly, saying that he was “proceeding cautiously but we need to get the economy back on track, to open up business”, according to the backbenche­r.

According to another report Mr Johnson told MPS “slowly but surely we will get through this”. He was asked about Government policy on China and appeared to be taking the UK back to the early 2010s, when Britain was keen to increase trade but wanted to speak out on human rights.

Mr Johnson reportedly told the MPS: “We need to understand the Chinese and we should not be turning our back on them completely because we need to trade with them.

“But when we spot human rights abuses, such as in Hong Kong or with the Uighurs, we should call those out.” Mr Johnson said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s position had “struck the right balance”.

Mr Johnson also made pledges to educate children across the world and ensure that there was a “green” recovery in the economy.

Jonathan Gullis, the Stoke-on-trent North MP, reportedly complained to Mr Johnson about his use of Ikea crockery at Chequers, rather than plates and dishes from Stoke.

Mr Johnson replied that it was “the second time I have been picked up and chastised on having Ikea plates in Chequers. We have got to review this”.

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