The call for clarity comes from Sheffield City Region mayor Dan Jarvis who says the time for excuses is over as he warns that the phrase will become an “empty slogan” unless the Prime Minister is more specific over future policy plans.
He was speaking after the PM lauded Britain’s groundbreaking trade deal with the EU, unveiled on Christmas Eve, as a watershed moment after years of Brexit wrangling that can also boost the country’s post-Covid recovery.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Johnson said: “We can’t sort of suddenly decide that we’re free and then not decide how to exercise it.
“This Government has a very clear agenda to unite and level up and to spread opportunity across the country.” He added that “freedom is what you make of it” and “it’s up to us now to seize the opportunities”.
But Mr Jarvis, who is also Labour MP for Barnsley Central, fears that the phrase ‘levelling up’ will become a meaningless platitude when it is, in fact, critically important to the North and other areas blighted by low wages and rising unemployment.
“The agreement of an EU trade deal means that there are now no more excuses for the Government not to make rapid progress with the levelling up agenda,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“Levelling up is of course welcome as a concept, but it’s not yet been underpinned with either a plan or resources. Without those, it is becoming more meaningless by the day.
“Given that Covid is levelling us down, we need more funding just to stand still – and of course just standing still is not what we want or what we were promised.”
He also warned: “The Government need to get on and urgently deliver the transformative investment the North needs, not just in our infrastructure, but in our people.
“Otherwise, Boris Johnson’s levelling up agenda will go the same way as David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ – and become just another empty slogan, delivering nothing but false hope.”
But senior Tory MP Robert Goodwill, a former Fisheries Minister, says last year’s Tory election manifesto offers a template for ‘levelling up’ in order to tackle regional inequalities, invest in new infrastructure and relocate jobs to the North.
“This isn’t something new,” said the Scarborough and Whitby MP. “We have been all chomping at the bit to get underway, but because of the difficult Brexit negotiations and then Covid, we have had to put these plans on the back burner.
“This is now an opportunity to close the North-South divide a little bit and that is what the Prime Minister will be getting on and doing once the deal is passed.”
Rishi Sunak to review busines taxes after Brexit
THE Prime Minister has touted post-Brexit changes to business taxes and regulation as MPs pore over the details of his trade agreement with the EU.
He said that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is “doing a big exercise on all of this” but insisted that the UK would not regress on workers’ rights or environmental standards.
Scrutiny of the 1,246-page treaty is underway ahead of votes in Parliament on Wednesday before it is enacted on New Year’s Day.
It was met with criticism from those working in the fishing industry who said they had been “sacrificed”, but the PM believes that the deal will stand up to inspection from the European Research Group (ERG) of Brexiteers.