‘Geography is destiny’: Boris Johnson admits that UK economy ‘more unbalanced than any other major country’
The UK has a more unbalanced economy than any other major country, the Prime Minister has said.
Making a speech on the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda in Coventry, Boris Johnson said that “for too many people, geography turns out to be destiny”.
He said that GDP in Wales was lower than in the former East Germany, which only reunited with the rest of Germany in 1990.
This was a result of former leaders investing too heavily in London and the South East to the detriment of other parts of the country, he said.
“We need to say from the beginning that before the pandemic began, the UK had and still has a more unbalanced economy than almost all our immediate biggest competitors in Europe,” he said.
“A more unbalanced than pretty much every major developed economy. And when I say unbalanced I mean that for too many people, geography turns out to be destiny.
“It is an outrage that a man in Glasgow or Blackpool has an average of 10 years less on this planet than someone growing up in Hart in Hampshire or in Rutland.
“It’s an astonishing fact that 31 years after German unification per capita GDP of the north-east of our country, of Yorkshire, of the east midlands, Wales and Northern Ireland is now lower than what was the former East Germany.
“Germany has succeeded in levelling up where we have not.
“Everybody knows that talent, energy and enthusiasm and flare are evenly spread across the UK. It is opportunity that is not.”
He said that previous governments had tended to invest in parts of the UK that were already successful.
“The tendency has been to hang around the goal mouth instead of being the playmaker,” he said.
“So you end up investing in areas where house prices are already high, where transport is already congested, and by turbocharging those areas, especially in London and the south-east, you drive prices even higher.
“And you force more and more people to move to the same expensive areas.”
Despite being accused by the Welsh Government of a hostile attitude to devolution, Boris Johnson said that the UK was also too politically centralised and needed more devolution.
He argued that England was too centralised and Whitehall was incapable of taking the right decisions to tackle the “glaring imbalances” across the country.
“This country is not only one of the most imbalanced economies in our neighbourhood, in the developed world, it is also one of the most centralised ones,” he said. “Those two defects are obviously connected.
“If you look at France and Germany, other European G7 economies, the level of productivity across their great cities is much more comparable.”