(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak dismissed questions about whether he wants to become Prime Minister, saying that he is “tired enough anyway.”
The chancellor made the comments in an interview with The Times newspaper on Saturday, in which he also discussed the risks of rising interest rates and the need to rein in public spending ahead of his budget presentation next week.
“The policy has shifted, you’ll see that next week,” he said about the economy’s high levels of state support since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. When asked about past policy disagreements with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said “what he and I have is a close, personal and working relationship that benefits from the proximity of being neighbors and just talking everything through.”
As one of the most popular members of the cabinet, Sunak has been asked several times if he sees himself as a potential successor for Johnson. His more immediate priorities include charting the course for the country’s recovery through the prospect of a Bank of England rate hike, a global supply-chain crisis and a surge in coronavirus cases.
Britain’s Economy Finds Out What It Means to Live With Covid
Sunak restated his commitment to balance the U.K.’s finances after the government spent some 352 billion pounds ($484 billion) to fight Covid-19 and protect the economy from the brunt of the pandemic’s effects. “It wouldn’t be right or responsible” to sustain the levels of spending and borrowing from the past 18 months, he told the Times.
In his budget next week, he’s expected to set a target to eliminate borrowing, except for investment, by the middle of the decade. Still, the Treasury plans to extend its program of state-backed business loans, which was due to finish at the end of the year, for another six months.
Current projections show it will cost 20 billion pounds more to service debt if rates are to rise by 1 percentage point, Sunak said. That makes it difficult to argue that government borrowing should be used as a buffer against soaring energy prices and similar expenses.
“These are global challenges and it’s difficult for government to wave a magic wand and make these global challenges go away overnight, right?” he said. “That it’s just something that is not in my gift or control.”
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