‘F*** Business’? Boris Johnson Says He Was Referring to Lobbyists

(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson didn’t deny that he said “f*** business” to a European diplomat last week -- instead he offered a more diplomatic explanation.

“I don’t think that anyone could doubt the passionate support of this government for business,” Johnson told lawmakers in the House of Commons on Tuesday when asked to confirm the Daily Telegraph’s story about his overheard comments made at a reception for the Queen’s birthday. “It may be that I have from time to time expressed skepticism about some of the views of those who profess to speak up for business.”

Read more: Brexit’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ has companies on edge

Either way, the pro-Brexit hardliner put little effort in showing that Conservatives were taking seriously corporate fears about the government’s handling of Brexit. The past few days have seen an cascade of warnings, kicked off by Airbus SE, that show business are at breaking point.

At stake, even beyond Brexit, is whether the Tories under Prime Minister Theresa May can still call themselves the party of business.

May attempted to laugh off Johnson’s comments when she was asked about them during an event for businesses in central London on Tuesday: “I’m very clear: business is at the heart of how we’re going to develop this country,” she said.

She went on to say: “Talk to us about what your thinking is, so that we can understand where business is coming from.”

The problem is that businesses are ready to talk, but have made it clear they don’t think May or her foreign secretary are listening.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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