The Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak ended 2020 as the most popular politician in the country. However, the chances of him finishing this year in the same spot are growing slimmer by the day. Mr Sunak’s first year as Chancellor has undoubtedly proved unpredictable.
He had initially believed the toughest part of the job would be the last-minute Budget he had to piece together when he was promoted after Sajid Javid’s resignation.
However, a much bigger challenge soon arrived in the form of a pandemic.
The astronomical level of public sector borrowing over the past year would be enough to give most finance ministers restless nights, let alone a fiscally-orthodox Conservative who sees high levels of public debt as a cardinal sin.
On top of that, the Chancellor is now facing pressure over his private phone calls with former Prime Minister David Cameron about the scandal-hit finance company Greensill Capital, amid claims that their discussions may have breached the ministerial code.
As many wonder whether the Chancellor will survive the year and prove himself worthy of becoming Prime Minister one day, unearthed reports shed light on what Mr Sunak once described as the “toughest decision” of his career.
Speaking exclusively to his constituents through the Yorkshire Post and The Darlington and Stockton Times in 2016, the father-of-two revealed how much it pained him to go against Mr Cameron by campaigning to leave the EU.
He wrote: “It has been by the far the toughest decision I have had to make since becoming an MP, but on June 23 I will vote to leave the European Union.
“It pains me that I have reached a different conclusion to people I greatly respect; notably the Prime Minister and my illustrious predecessor, Lord Hague.
“For me, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our country to take back control of its destiny.”
Mr Sunak explained his years in global business taught him the key to growth was to remove the bureaucracy of Brussels.
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He added: “I have spent my business career working around the world, investing in countries like the US, India and Brazil.
“I have also helped British companies expand internationally.
“My own experience convinced me that not only can our businesses thrive in these exciting markets, but that they must.
“Since we joined the Common Market, Europe’s share of the word economy has halved and is still falling.
“Whilst China’s GDP has doubled since the recession, Europe is the only continent in the world (alongside Antarctica, that is) that has failed to grow at all.
“Canada, South Korea and South Africa all trade freely with Europe without surrendering their independence. As one of Europe’s largest customers, I see no sensible reason why we could not achieve a similar agreement.
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“Six million jobs in the EU are linked to UK trade and we buy £60billion more from Europe than Europe buys from us.”
Immigration was another key factor in his decision to campaign to leave the EU, and it is understood it was the most debated topic on the doorsteps as he travelled around the Richmond constituency in the run up to the 2015 general election.
He added: “I believe that appropriate immigration can benefit our country. But we must have control of our borders and we can only do that outside of the EU.
“As an EU member, every one of Europe’s 500 million citizens has a legal right to move here and there is nothing the UK government can do to limit those numbers.
“It can’t be right that unelected officials in Brussels have more say over who can come into our country than you.”