LONDON (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised Monday to champion a green industrial revolution for Britain — and hailed preschool favorite Peppa Pig as an inspiring model for the U.K. economy.
Johnson told a conference of business group the Confederation of British Industry that investing in new green technologies and redistributing wealth and industry away from the wealthy southeast of England could make Britain’s economy “the biggest and most successful” in Europe.
The government faces wide skepticism from a business sector that largely opposed Brexit, a cause Johnson championed. Many U.K. businesses argued that leaving the European Union would make it harder to do business with the 27-nation bloc, Britain’s biggest trading partner.
That has turned out to be true: U.K.-EU trade in both goods and services has fallen since the final split at the end of 2020, though some of the disruption may be due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson’s relationship with the business community has been tense ever since he is widely reported to have used a strong, dismissive expletive against businesses during Britain’s exit negotiations from the EU.
He insisted Monday that “I’ve never been anything other than business’s No. 1 fan.”
CBI Director General Tony Danker said businesses welcomed the government’s commitment to economic growth, but needed to see “detail and delivery.”
During a rambling speech in which he also quoted Lenin and referred to the biblical story of Moses, Johnson recounted his visit on Sunday to Peppa Pig World, a theme park in the New Forest area of southern England dedicated to the animated character. Johnson and his wife Carrie have a 19-month-old son, Wilfred.
Johnson said Peppa Pig was a symbol of “the power of U.K. creativity.”
“Who would have believed that a pig that looks like … a sort of Picasso-like hairdryer, a pig that was rejected by the BBC, would now be exported to 180 countries, with theme parks both in America and in China as well as in the New Forest,” he said.
“I think that is pure genius.”
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