Have hope: Sunak says he can get the economy growing this year
Rishi Sunak insisted he can get the economy growing again “this year” as he urged people to “have hope” despite the bleak assessments of the UK’s finances.
The Prime Minister pledged he would release his tax returns “shortly” as he battles to recover from having to sack Nadhim Zahawi as his Tory party chairman over his financial affairs.
He also did not rule out supplying Ukraine with fighter jets in the future as Volodymyr Zelensky urges allies to send them to help repel the Russian invasion.
In a TalkTV interview, Mr Sunak insisted he could quickly turn around the nation’s fortunes after the Bank of England predicted a recession will be shorter and shallower than expected.
The Bank also hiked the base interest rate from 3.5% to 4% in an attempt to help bring double-digit inflation under control.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted a day earlier the UK economy will be the only major economy – including sanction-hit Russia – to plunge into recession this year.
Mr Sunak insisted he could deliver the five priorities he has set for the nation, three of which centre on the economy.
“I do believe over the course of this year we’ll get the economy growing again,” the Prime Minister told broadcaster Piers Morgan.
The Bank predicted the economy will shrink by 1% compared to the 3% previously feared partly because wholesale energy prices have fallen. But it is still a recession.
The IMF predicts that the UK economy will contract by 0.6% this year against the 0.3% growth it pencilled in last October in a major downgrade by the fund.
Asked what his message to the public is, Mr Sunak said: “It’s ‘have hope’. Have hope because I can make it better, and I will make it better.”
With his pledge to govern with “integrity” at every level 100 days ago when he entered No 10 dented by Mr Zahawi’s tax affairs and bullying allegations dogging Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Mr Sunak recommitted to publishing his tax returns in order to be “transparent”.
“The tax filing deadline’s just passed, so they’re just being prepared and they will be released shortly,” he said, before saying most people would consider him as being “financially fortunate” when asked if he was a billionaire.
Mr Sunak said it was a “good thing” that predecessor Boris Johnson was still active politically, after the former prime minister called for the West to provide Ukraine with the fighter jets it wants.
Downing Street has highlighted the complexities of training Ukrainian pilots to fly the RAF’s Typhoon and F-35 planes.
Mr Sunak argued they “are incredibly sophisticated pieces of equipment that require months if not years for people to be trained on”.
But asked if he could rule out supplying them in the future, he said: “No, we’re always in a dialogue with our Ukrainian friends about what the right way to support them is.”
Much of his first 100 days in office have been characterised by a wave of public sector strikes over pay, as ministers often refuse to negotiate over salaries with unions.
Mr Sunak said nurses should be treated as an “exception” and that he would “love to give the nurses a massive pay rise” but insisted he could not.
He did not deny he has asked Suella Braverman to tone down her language after anger over the Home Secretary’s claims of an “invasion” of small boats across the Channel.
Mr Sunak said “we should always remember that we’re a compassionate country”, adding: “She believes that. Everyone believes that in the Government.
“But we’re not a soft touch.”
Tackling the unauthorised crossings of the Channel is one of Mr Sunak’s key priorities, but a key part of his solution has been grounded by the legal challenges to the controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.
The Prime Minister insisted that the policy will happen and said asylum claims will be sped up to a “matter of days or weeks” and “not months or years”.