Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will hold the first meeting of his new business council on Tuesday, in a bid to support his pledge to grow the economy and fend off attempts by the opposition Labour Party to win over the business community.
Sunak will hold talks in Downing Street with chief executives and chairman of some of Britain’s largest companies including AstraZeneca, NatWest Group, BAE Systems, Sainsbury’s, Vodafone, Diageo, Barclays, and Shell.
“I look forward to hearing first-hand from business leaders about how we can break down the barriers they face and unlock new opportunities for them to thrive,” Sunak said in a statement. “The more businesses innovate and invest, the more we grow and create good jobs right across the country.”
Sunak, a former investment banker, has made reviving the economy one of his five key priorities after Britain’s gross domestic product only regained its pre-pandemic size in February.
International Monetary Fund projections earlier this year put Britain at the bottom of the world’s major economies in terms of expected growth in 2023.
Many business leaders were left infuriated by the governing Conservatives’ decision to leave the EU’s single market and customs union at the end of 2020, and then the economic turmoil during the premierships of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.
The opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer is campaigning to convince companies that the left-wing party would not pose a threat if it returns to power in an election expected next year.
Sunak’s office said in a statement the business council will be a forum to understand “how the current economic climate is impacting business and how government and industry can work together to boost investment and innovation, drive productivity and create highly skilled jobs”.
As well as the global problems of higher energy prices and disrupted supply chains, many British companies are having to adapt to new trading rules from Brexit as well as shortages of workers because EU citizens can no longer travel without visas to work in Britain as they could previously.