Chancellor warns UK can't "borrow our way" out of Covid-19 crisis

5 October 2020, 13:04 | Updated: 5 October 2020, 13:29

The Chancellor said "hard choices are everywhere"
The Chancellor said "hard choices are everywhere". Picture: YouTube

By Matt Drake

The Chancellor today said it would not be possible for the UK to "borrow our way" out of the hole caused by the coronavirus crisis, paving the way for spending cuts or tax rises.

Rishi Sunak said protecting the economy is a "sacred responsibility" at the 2020 virtual Tory Party conference.

Mr Sunak said the economy is undergoing significant changes as a result of the crisis.

The chancellor said "hard choices are everywhere" as he pledged to balance the economic books, despite the pandemic.

Speaking at the Conservative Party's online conference, he said: "We will protect the public finances, over the medium-term getting our borrowing and debt back under control.

"We have a sacred responsibility to future generations to leave the public finances strong, and through careful management of our economy, this Conservative Government will always balance the books.

"If instead we argue there is no limit on what we can spend, that we can simply borrow our way out of any hole, what is the point in us?

"I have never pretended there is some easy cost-free answer.

"Hard choices are everywhere."

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He also said that he cannot protect every job, admitting "the pain of knowing it only grows with each passing day".

But he added that his "single priority" as Chancellor to "create, support and extend opportunity to as many people as I can".

Mr Sunak, who is being touted as a potential successor to Boris Johnson, also paid a "heartfelt tribute" to the Prime Minister, acknowledging the "difficult trade-offs and decisions" forced upon the Government.

Meanwhile, the Chancellor has defended his Eat Out to Help Out scheme which sought to encourage diners to return to restaurants and pubs with a state-backed discount.

At the weekend, Mr Johnson suggested the incentive "may have helped to spread the coronavirus" and that its impact needed to be counteracted, with the country facing a second surge in positive Covid-19 cases.

But Mr Sunak, in an interview with The Sun ahead of his speech, said the scheme had helped prop-up two million jobs and that he had no regrets about paying for it.

Asked if he had any regrets, he replied: "No, definitely not. We had an industry that I care deeply about because of employment. It's over two million people."

Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds responded to the conference speech on Twitter, saying: "The Chancellor just spoke for 10 minutes, but he had nothing new to say.

"No new targeted support for millions facing the furlough cliff edge. Nothing new for the self-employed. Nothing for those excluded so far.

"He just blew his chance to get a grip on Britain's jobs crisis," she added.

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