Boris Johnson has moved to rebuild his relationship with the business community by hiring Sky executive Andrew Griffiths as part of his Number 10 team.
A source close to Griffiths said Johnson’s appointment of the Sky veteran – who most recently served as the broadcasting giant’s chief operating officer – was “a clear sign of intent” that the former mayor of London wants to build fresh links with the City and businesses across the UK.
City A.M. understands that Griffiths, who joins the new government as Johnson’s top business adviser, first discussed the position with the incoming PM to weeks ago and felt that the new Tory leader “was the real deal.”
One source said Griffiths is “an operator, not a policy wonk” and he “will want to get things done.” Sources in Johnson’s camp have told City A.M. that there will be a “beefing-up” of the Downing Street business team but it’s understood that Theresa May’s business adviser, Jimmy McLoughlin, will be staying on to assist with the transition.
Johnson ruptured his business-friendly reputation following the EU referendum when he was caught saying “f*** business” in reaction to corporate groups lobbying for a softer Brexit.
However, the relationship may already be thawing with most business groups giving a cautious welcome to the incoming resident of Number 10 yesterday.
TheCityUK congratulated Johnson on his convincing win but warned against a no-deal outcome with Brussels.“He becomes Prime Minister at a pivotal time in our country’s history.
He must now move swiftly to set out his plans for the road ahead. Ongoing Brexit uncertainty is depressing business activity, but the financial and related professional services industry remains very clear that a no-deal Brexit is still the worst of all outcomes,” it said..
The British Chamber of Commerce was also quick to send its regards, but again warned about the consequences of crashing out of the bloc. ““The message to Boris Johnson from business communities around the UK couldn’t be simpler: the time for campaigning is over — and we need you to get down to business.
Companies need to know, in concrete terms, what your government will do to avoid a messy, disorderly Brexit on 31 October – which would bring pain to communities across the UK and disruption to our trade around the world.
Business lobby group the CBI echoed other calls for a pro-business Brexit deal, but also on support for infrastructure projects to boost businesses across the country.
Johnson has previously voiced opposition two of the country’s most ambitious infrastructure projects: Heathrow airport expansion and the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail project.
An HS2 Ltd Spokesperson said: “We look forward to working with the new Prime Minister to ensure that HS2 will transform the British economy and is value for money for the taxpayer”.
Meanwhile, Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said the airport’s third runway, which Johnson opposed, will be “a critical part of any new prime minister’s agenda”.
“As we leave the EU we’re going to need to have the trading links that only Heathrow can bring and that is why we are cracking on with it.”
The pound dropped to $1.247, after the membership ballot result naming Johnson as leader was announced. As Michael Brown, senior analyst at Caxton FX explains, this was largely due to the fact that the likelihood of Johnson victory had already been priced in.
“With such an outcome having been largely expected, sterling’s immediate reaction has been muted as the news was already priced in,” he said. “However, focus will quickly switch to the next steps – namely, Cabinet appointments and the Brexit plan. The latter will be of more importance for markets, with sterling set to remain under pressure should Boris continue his ‘do or die’ Halloween Brexit stance.”
In the run-up to the announcement a number of businesses had been nervous about the prospect of a Johnson premiership, due to the former London mayor’s insistence that he would take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal by the 31 October.