Sunak Grins And Bears It As Boss Hits Out At Brexit's 'Drag On Growth'

Burberry chairman says scrapping the VAT refund for tourists has made Britain the "least attractive" shopping destination in Europe.
Rishi Sunak on stage as he hosts a Business Connect event in north London.
Rishi Sunak on stage as he hosts a Business Connect event in north London.
via Associated Press

Rishi Sunak has had to face up to criticism of Brexit from a business leader as the PM attempted to patch up the government’s relationship with industry.

Gerry Murphy, the chairman of Burberry, hit out at the “spectacular own goal” of a post-Brexit VAT change as the prime minister had an audience with around 200 high-profile chief executives.

Murphy added scrapping the VAT refund for tourists has made Britain the “least attractive” shopping destination in Europe as he said leaving the EU had been a “drag on growth”.

Chairman of one of the UK's biggest fashion brands has called a Government Brexit policy "a spectacular own goal."

Burberry's Gerry Murphy tells Rishi Sunak that the UK is the "least attractive" shopping destination in Europe after scrapping the VAT refund for tourists.

— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) April 24, 2023

Sunak insisted at the Business Connect conference he convened in London that the government has “got your back” after the leaderships of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

Murphy welcomed Sunak as being “obviously more business friendly than some predecessor administrations”.

But the chairman of the luxury retailer added: “It is somewhat perverse that on the day that we left the single market, a decision by, I think it was by you as chancellor, to remove the VAT refund for tourists made the UK the least attractive shopping destination in Europe.

“Leaving the EU has had a significant friction effect on trade, hopefully not forever … but it is the case it was a drag on growth.

“So we ask you to look at this specific one (VAT), this is a spectacular own goal, one that can be reversed by a decision from you or from the chancellor.”

Sunak insisted there “were good reasons for it” but said he would look at the data to “see if things are panning out as we expected to, or not”.

Labour seized on the conference to accuse the Tories of having mismanaged the UK economy.

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Pat McFadden said: “After 13 years, the pattern of Tory economic failure is grinding on.

“Families in Britain are being harder hit by price rises than many comparable economies.

“Other countries have had to cope with Covid and the consequences of the war in Ukraine, yet it is Tory Britain which sits at the top of the inflation growth league of major industrial economies.”

Earlier this month, IMF economists stated that they expected the UK economy to grow slower than other developed G7 nations, with a contraction of 0.3% this year before rebounding to grow by 1% next year.


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