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CBI conference

Johnson says UK in better position than in first wave

Boris Johnson addressing the CBI conference

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told business leaders today that thanks to British technical innovation it was in a far better position than during the first wave of the pandemic lockdown.

Addressing the CBI annual conference, he apologised to businesses for the disruption they have endured but thanked them for their patience and for complying with “diktats”, and said he was encouraged by efforts to support and rebuild the economy.

“I know how tough it has been for you…I’m full of admiration for the determination you’ve shown in persevering through this crisis,” he said.

Speaking from Downing Street to the virtual audience of 8,000 business leaders, he repeated the Chancellor’s pledge to “do whatever it takes” to back British business through the pandemic.

“It is thanks to British technical innovation that we are now in a far better position than we were during the first wave,” he said.

Mr Johnson, who pulled out of a scheduled address on Monday because of the need to attend to Covid business, spoke of the prospect of a vaccine in the first quarter of next year with several British companies among the frontrunners. He made a commitment to rapid mass testing for Covid starting next week.

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Mr Johnson said work to rebuild the economy had begun with investment in infrastructure, helping young people and a new “green industrial revolution”. He said there was a the need to tackle the “yawning productivity gap” and that “now is the moment to change that”.

His comments came as new data showed UK productivity suffer a record fall in the second quarter, down 2% on the previous three months because of a contraction in economic activity.

He concluded his brief address by referring to a man who has opened a trampoline centre in a former Welsh coal mine. He said he had provided him with a metaphor for the current circumstances.

“No matter how deep the hole you think you are in you can always bounce back,” he said.

Afterwards, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “The Prime Minister’s heartfelt commitment to backing British business could not be more necessary or welcome. It’s only through thriving enterprise that our economy will bounce back from this crisis. 

“The Prime Minister made it very clear he shares this view and that his door is always open to the CBI and business. In return, firms will do all they can to help our country recover.

“They will step up to support communities, create new jobs for young people and accelerate the UK’s path to net zero. This is a time for the partnership of a generation between business and government. 

“Our door too is always open.

“This next month will be a test of this partnership, bringing a collision of the twin challenges of lockdown and the end game on the UK’s trade deal with the EU. Let’s use this time working side-by-side to protect jobs, livelihoods and communities across the country.” 



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