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Boris Johnson has claimed that a Conservative government would be freed up to give more state aid to struggling companies, after leaving the European Union.

As he continued to hammer home the message that he would “get Brexit done”, Johnson said it would be an opportunity to escape EU bailout rules – an argument previously more associated with Labour.

The Conservatives said they would replace the current state aid regime with a new system, in line with World Trade Organization (WTO) rules – though these also impose strict restrictions.

Johnson said the new approach would be faster, and make the rules clearer.

At a press conference in Westminster, the prime minister claimed that leaving the EU would also allow the UK to charge zero VAT on tampons, change public procurement rules so that government contracts boost the local economy, and promote a “buy British” rule for public bodies.

Free market thinktanks reacted with scepticism. Allie Renison, head of Europe and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said: “While we need more clarity around the detail, the proposals outlined do not fit easily with ambitions for a ‘Global Britain’. Indeed they suggest a retreat away from free and open markets, with clear implications for a comprehensive new trade relationship with the EU. This is not the kind of divergence we should be seeking in the first instance. It seems like a bad solution in search of the wrong problem.”

The economist Jonathan Portes, of the thinktank UK in a Changing Europe, said the policies meant the Tory party had put forward “its most protectionist manifesto for a century”. Read more

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