Theresa May slaps down Boris Johnson over 'f*** business' outburst

Posted On: 
27th June 2018

Theresa May has slapped down Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt over their dismissal of business’ concerns over Brexit.

Theresa May has moved to reassure business over Brexit
Credit: 
PA

Mr Johnson was reported to have said "f*** business" at a Foreign Office reception last week, in response to warnings from big companies including aerospace giant Airbus that they could quit the UK if no deal is reached with Brussels.

The Health Secretary Mr Hunt was equally combative, saying it was "completely inappropriate" for Airbus to raise concerns about the Brexit process and warning such interventions could end in "absolute disaster".

Fresh business warning as City boss laments lack of Brexit clarity

Car industry to Theresa May: rethink unrealistic Brexit plans or risk jobs

Fresh Cabinet splits as Greg Clark takes swipe at Hunt and Johnson over Airbus Brexit warning

But the Prime Minister moved to silence the senior Cabinet figures yesterday, telling a CEO summit in London that businesses "create wealth", and that she would "always listen" to their concerns.

"A Conservative government will always listen to your voice and back you every step of the way as you help grow our economy and create more good jobs," she said.

Speaking at the same event, Business Secretary Greg Clark also rebuked his colleagues, saying: "In my experience the business voice puts evidence first before ideology.

"Brings actual experience of trading, whether with Europe or the rest of the world. Not a theoretical view of what the world will be like. Not a speculation on how they might operate."

He added: "The experience of employing millions of men and women and helping them earn a good living, not a theoretical exercise in which you take decisions about the lives of people in imagined circumstances in imagined worlds.

"So the business voice seems to me to be the foundation to a successful effective negotiation."

The comments from Mrs May and Mr Clark came as the ex-head of the Prime Minister's policy unit said infighting was damaging the party.

"I don’t recognise the party that I joined in this conversation at the moment," George Freeman told the BBC’s World at One.

The Tory MP warned that the party risked losing its reputation for financial competence and ushering in a Labour government.

"I’m very worried, that’s why I left the Government last autumn," he said.

"I think if we lose our reputation for economic competence, if we can’t show that we’re managing the public finances properly, if we treat Brexit like an anti-business moment... and if we don’t show that we have a distinctive Conservative approach to support enterprise, hard work, risk, savings and we go down the road of big taxes and spending spree... I fear we will lose and we’ll deserve to.

"If we look like Corbyn-lite, the public will conclude they’re better off voting for the real thing."