RISHI Sunak is to cut short a trip to the United States after demands from the hospitality sector for urgent financial support as its trade is destroyed by the Omicron surge.

The Chancellor’s four-day official visit to California had also been criticised by his political opponents, who said he needed to be back at the Treasury working on a plan.

Nicola Sturgeon said he should be back at his desk, while Labour said he needed to get a flight home and then get a grip of the situation.

Pubs and restaurants have reported a collapse in vital festive bookings - which have not been offset by state support - after official advice to minimise socialising because of Covid. 

UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and other industry leaders appealed for business rates relief, VAT discounts and the reintroduction of targeted furlough. 

The CBI also urged the Government to provide support “in lockstep with future restrictions”.

In a hastily arranged call, Mr Sunak and his Treasury team spoke to both organisations as well as hospitality firms including Prezzo, Nando’s, Whitbread, Greene King, Black Sheep Brewery and Adnams.

Speaking to broadcasters in the US, Mr Sunak insisted the Government was “not telling people to cancel things” and was “not closing down businesses”.

He said: “I appreciate that it is a difficult time for the hospitality industry, that’s why I was on the phone earlier today with various industry leaders from the hospitality space.”

He said his “long-planned” trip to the US was aimed at “bringing investment and jobs and new products and services to the UK”, but added: “Of course I understand the concerns of businesses at the moment, given everything that’s going on. It’s why I have curtailed my trip and... I will be back in the UK tomorrow.”

Shadow Treasury chief secretary Pat McFadden said: “Why did he decide to proceed with a trip to California on Tuesday when it was already clear that UK businesses were struggling to cope with what the Prime Minister himself has called a ‘tidal wave of Omicron’?”

Ms Sturgeon today wrote to Boris Johnson warning it was “all but inevitable” that Omicron will wreck the economic recovery without swift Treasury action.

In a letter to the PM, copied to Mr Sunak, she said: “If we do not get Omicro under control, we are sacrificing the economic recovery we all want to see. If the Treasury does not provide financial compensation and support, this result becomes all but inevitable.”

At FMQs, Ms Sturgeon said the Prime Minister and his Chancellor must not “sleep walk into an emergency” caused by Omicron, which is expected to become the dominant strain in Scotland today.

She also said she took part in a four-nation Cobra meeting on Wednesday chaired by Michael Gove, adding: “These meetings are really important. I hope the Prime Minister and the Chancellor engage directly in them from now on.”