Boris Johnson to chair four-nation coronavirus recovery summit

3 June 2021, 08:11

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting with the leaders of the devolved nations
Boris Johnson will chair a meeting with the leaders of the devolved nations. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

Boris Johnson will chair a coronavirus recovery summit with the leaders of the devolved nations on Thursday afternoon.

The virtual summit is due to be attended by the four nations' first ministers and deputy first ministers as well as Chancellor Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove and the UK Government's secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Gove said he was “delighted” that leaders of the devolved nations had agreed to it and said that recovery would be more successful if it was done together.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have worked together to stop the spread of the virus and to roll out life-saving vaccines,” he said.

"Our joint success has shown the world what we can achieve as a United Kingdom.

"We must take the same approach to the difficult challenge of rebuilding our economy and public services from the damaging impact of Covid-19."

Mr Johnson called for the meeting in the wake of the Welsh and Scottish parliamentary elections last month as he urged a united approach "to overcome the significant challenges of the Covid recovery".

The meeting was initially due to take place last week but it was postponed after the first ministers of Wales and Scotland raised concerns.

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Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford pulled out, saying they wanted it to be a "meaningful discussion with substantive outcomes", and not merely a “PR exercise”, something that Ms Sturgeon claimed the UK government was not “remotely prepared” for.

Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford initially pulled out over concerns the meeting was just a "PR exercise"
Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford initially pulled out over concerns the meeting was just a "PR exercise". Picture: Getty

Both first ministers subsequently wrote to the Prime Minister asking for more substance and clarity about the summit, and Ms Sturgeon has also called on the government to extend the furlough scheme ahead of the meeting.

"We have done everything we can with the limited powers we have to tackle inequality and mitigate the impact the pandemic has had on people's livelihoods, but we cannot allow that to be eroded as we enter the next phase of living with the virus,” said Ms Sturgeon.

"A return to the pre-pandemic austerity would be disastrous for jobs, for public services and for people and families across Scotland."

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The Scottish first minister said the UK government held the “key financial levers” to recovery, and, as well as extending the furlough scheme, there should also be measures to support long-term recovery.

"I've been given assurances that this will be a meaningful discussion, and it must be,” she said.

"For this summit to be in any way productive, all UK nations must work collaboratively.

"As part of that, the UK Government needs to ensure meaningful engagement with the devolved administrations on the negotiation and governance of trade deals, and to respect the devolved Parliaments by not diverting money to be spent by UK ministers."