RISHI Sunak has told the UK Cabinet that while Britain can be “optimistic” about recovery from the Covid crisis, it also had to be honest with itself about what “wartime levels” of borrowing will mean in the future.

Just ahead of his Budget statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, the Chancellor set out the main details to his colleagues.

A No 10 spokesman explained that Mr Sunak had said the pandemic had hit the economy hard.

“We've stepped in to provide support and protect jobs and today we will outline more support to get people through to the other side of the crisis.”

But the spokesman also noted how the Chancellor also said: “We must be honest with ourselves and the country about what that has meant. We are borrowing on an extraordinary scale; equivalent only to wartime levels.”

In what will be seen as a signal of tax rises ahead, he went on: “As a Conservative Government, we know that we cannot ignore this problem and it wouldn't be right or responsible to do so.”

The Chancellor said that, while Britain faced challenging times, it will rise to that challenge and “we can be optimistic about the recovery”.

The Budget, he told colleagues, would begin the work of building the future economy.

Boris Johnson, who chaired the meeting, said the Budget measures were only possible because of the “prudence” of the Conservative Government over a long period of time, which meant the country had gone into the crisis with strong public finances.

The Prime Minister explained how the Budget would begin to set out how the country would make the most of its post-Brexit future and as a “science superpower”.

He stressed the Government’s plan for growth would focus on innovation, skills and infrastructure with the “mission being to unleash the potential of our whole country and build back better from the pandemic”.