Rishi Sunak says we’re still in extra time but close to the final whistle on lockdown

RISHI Sunak joined a football kickabout with schoolkids — and urged the Prime Minister to blow the whistle on lockdown.

The Chancellor made clear he will not tolerate a further extension to the restrictions that have hampered British business.

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Dan Charity / The Sun
Rishi will not tolerate a further extension to the restrictions that have hampered British business[/caption]

Mr Sunak declared: “We’re still in extra time but we are at last nearing the final whistle and I fully expect the referee to sound it on July 19.”

He vowed to hold ministers to their word that the four-week delay was purely to speed up the vaccination roll-out.

And he added: “It was a specific extension for a specific purpose, which was to get some more jabs into more people’s arms. We’re accomplishing that, so it just shouldn’t be necessary to delay any further.”

In a Sun on Sunday exclusive interview, the Chancellor revealed:

  • HE was a “goody two shoes” at school but once ran into trouble for watching football when he should have been studying.
  • THERE has been no fall-out with the PM over spending plans and they enjoy a “fantastic and personal working relationship”.
  • BORIS Johnson is “the gaffer” when it comes to making the big spending decisions.

Football fan Mr Sunak is optimistic that July will turn out to be a memorable month, with a return to a more normal way of life — and with England going all the way in the Euros.

Dan Charity / The Sun
Football fan Mr Sunak is optimistic that July will turn out to be a memorable month[/caption]

He hopes Boris Johnson will open up Britain quicker than he believes Gareth Southgate’s team will open up the German defence on Tuesday.

But he would not tolerate the thought of the dire consequences for the country if our lives are put on hold for a further spell.

He said: “My strong hope and expectation is we are getting this done on July 19 because the vaccine programme will have given us that extra level of protection that was required by then.

“It’s been a really tough time for tons of businesses. Hopefully they feel we have done as much as we can to support them. I know we’ve not been able to do everything that people want and for that I’m sorry, but I think we’ve done a huge amount.

“Now the most important thing is to reopen the economy so that they can get back to doing what they want, which is to have us back as customers and get their staff back — and off we go.”

Asked if a few more weeks would inflict any lasting harm on the economy, he responded: “I want to see positive momentum. We want people to get back to work. We want people to be in jobs. We don’t want them to be at home, we want them to be out.

“We don’t want them to be unemployed and we want businesses to be open, welcoming us back as customers.”

Mr Sunak was speaking during a visit to a sports centre that he believes could help England’s bid to stage the 2030 World Cup.

Dan Charity / The Sun
The Chancellor hopes Boris Johnson will open up Britain quicker than he believes Gareth Southgate’s team will open up the German defence on Tuesday[/caption]

He staged an impromptu kick-about with youngsters at Gunnersbury Park Sports Hub, West London, which benefited from a £25million boost for grassroots football in his last Budget.

The Chancellor — an avid Southampton supporter — believes centres like this can help nurture champions of the future. He met Josh Dasilva, a midfielder with local club and newly promoted Premier League side Brentford, who was helping with a junior coaching session.

Mr Sunak added: “You’re seeing all these girls out and about and everyone having a great time and this is the legacy we are trying to build leading up to 2030.

“We are working with the FA, the Premier League and with local authorities to build these more hub-oriented models and you can see what a fantastic facility it is. We need to find the Matt Le Tissiers of tomorrow, that’s what it’s about.”

He added: “The local club here is in the Premier League for the first time and that’s inspirational for people. We need to give those young people who have the dream the means to realise that dream — whether it’s playing for England or their local club.”

Mr Sunak wore an England shirt bearing his name and the number of his official Downing Street residence, No 11, on the back.

He said he will be wearing it for the England vs Germany match on Tuesday.

Mr Sunak’s earliest memories of international football was Euro 96, which he describes as “my football coming of age”. Aged 16, he remembers sneaking a TV into school to watch the games.

He said: “I was a bit of a goody-two-shoes at school, but football was my thing and I had smuggled into school this hand-held portable TV antenna to be able to watch the games when we were supposed to be doing homework.

Dan Charity / The Sun
The Chancellor says he will be wearing his new football shirt for the England vs Germany match on Tuesday[/caption]

“Unfortunately, I got busted. My portable TV was confiscated and I got into a lot of trouble. But, looking back, it was a nice moment.”

Mr Sunak admits he faces tough decisions ahead on the economic front as he wrestles with a £400billion bill for the pandemic. But he insists there has been no fall out with Mr Johnson over his ambitious spending commitments.

The Chancellor also denies BoJo is addicted to grandiose spending promises — and he accepts that the PM is the man in charge. He insists he fully supported plans to spend £200million on a new national flagship to promote Britain.

He said: “There’s enormous potential for it to be a beacon for global Britain.”

Mr Sunak added: “Look, the Prime Minister is the gaffer, I’ve got huge respect for him and we have a fantastic personal and working relationship.

“There are always difficult decisions on how to prioritise. My point to people is to say, look, we’ve got a big pie, it’s a growing pie, it’s always difficult to figure out what exactly is the right way to slice it.

“That’s our job and we’ve got to make sure we focus on people’s priorities.”

But right now Mr Sunak’s priority is getting Britain fully opened for business.

He said: “I think it looks good for July 19 and we should focus on getting these jabs done and moving forward.”


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