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Re­stric­tions hit UK busi­nesses hard

- Brexit · European Politics · UK News · Politics · Infectious Diseases · British Politics · Health Conditions · United Kingdom · London · Conservative Party of New York · European Union · Spain · France · Boris Johnson · Scotland · England · Conservative Party (UK) · Charles Walker · HM Treasury · Goldman Sachs Group

>>LONDON: Coro­n­avirus cases hit a daily record again on Fri­day, a day af­ter the UK fi­nance min­is­ter ef­fec­tively aban­doned sav­ing hun­dred of thou­sands of peo­ple from un­em­ploy­ment. A re­bel­lion is brew­ing within the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive Party over new re­stric­tions, which many busi­nesses say will crip­ple them. A trade deal with the Euro­pean Union to avoid more chaos is on a knife edge be­fore talks re­sume this week.

As the pan­demic rages and coun­tries across Europe try to re­spond with­out throw­ing their economies back to the Covid-19 wolves, lead­ers in Spain and France are also feel­ing the pres­sure. But for Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son, cri­sis is look­ing more like a per­ma­nent state. Few gov­ern­ments face so many chal­lenges on so many fronts.

The sense of fore­bod­ing was height­ened this week af­ter a U-turn on peo­ple re­turn­ing to of­fices and curbs on restau­rant and pub hours. In Au­gust, the gov­ern­ment was still sub­si­dis­ing din­ers to bol­ster the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try, a move some sci­en­tists sug­gested may have con­trib­uted to spread­ing the virus.

Busi­ness own­ers are com­plain­ing there’s not enough fi­nan­cial sup­port and are shed­ding staff, while up and down the coun­try ra­dio phone-ins field con­fused callers won­der­ing about what they can and can’t do now. That’s at a time when the UK is strug­gling to meet de­mand for Covid-19 test­ing just as it heads into the win­ter flu sea­son.

The prob­lem, said one se­nior Con­ser­va­tive mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, is that things are not work­ing in­side the No. 10 Down­ing Street ma­chine — and Mr John­son needs to get a grip. The ques­tion is whether he will get the coun­try through its predica­ment given the “doom and gloom” the UK faces, the per­son said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Brexit talks now head into a crit­i­cal fi­nal round of for­mal dis­cus­sions. The ques­tion in­creas­ingly be­ing asked is if and when Mr John­son will in­ter­vene to res­cue a deal af­ter his gov­ern­ment de­clared it would break in­ter­na­tional law by reneg­ing on a part of its With­drawal Agree­ment with the EU. The dis­clo­sure caused out­rage among Brus­sels of­fi­cials and pro­vided fod­der for Scot­land’s na­tion­al­ists who want an­other ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence.

The EU has told UK ne­go­tia­tors they must ac­cept some of the bloc’s key de­mands over their fu­ture re­la­tion­ship if they want to make progress be­fore an Oc­to­ber dead­line, ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the dis­cus­sions.

The gov­ern­ment in London said last week 7,000 trucks could end up parked in south­east Eng­land in a “rea­son­able worst case” sce­nario re­gard­less of whether there’s a deal in place when the tran­si­tion ends on Dec 31. Many com­pa­nies are now los­ing hope that a deal will be done and step­ping up their con­tin­gency plan­ning by stock­ing up ware­houses. In ad­di­tion, three of the UK’s main su­per­mar­kets in­tro­duced lim­its on prod­ucts like flour and dried pasta on con­cern peo­ple will hoard goods again be­cause of the pan­demic.

Dis­quiet among Con­ser­va­tives over Brexit and the im­pact of re­newed coro­n­avirus rules on civil lib­er­ties has grown as the party heads into its au­tumn con­fer­ence start­ing next weekend.

Charles Walker, vice chair­man of an in­flu­en­tial com­mit­tee of the party’s law­mak­ers, warned the gov­ern­ment last week: “If you keep whack­ing a dog, you shouldn’t be sur­prised when it bites you back.”

Chan­cel­lor of the Ex­che­quer Rishi Su­nak on Thurs­day an­nounced a plan to sub­sidise wages for the next six months, but the UK’s fur­lough pro­gramme is be­ing phased out. Gold­man Sachs econ­o­mists say the move could throw an ad­di­tional 2.2 mil­lion into un­em­ploy­ment.

 ??  ?? BOXED UP: A mask de­pict­ing PM Boris John­son is seen at a “Per­fect Par­ties” shop, amid the coro­n­avirus dis­ease, in Leighton Buz­zard, UK, on Wed­nes­day.
BOXED UP: A mask de­pict­ing PM Boris John­son is seen at a “Per­fect Par­ties” shop, amid the coro­n­avirus dis­ease, in Leighton Buz­zard, UK, on Wed­nes­day.

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