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23 September 2020

A second lockdown could call last orders on parts of the UK economy

Britain will soon have to weather not only a second lockdown, but the increasingly likely prospect of a no-deal Brexit.

By Stephen Bush

New restrictions are coming to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From tomorrow (24 September) there will be a 10pm curfew for all bars and restaurants, which will also be limited to table service. Meetings between households indoors are now prohibited in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and partially prohibited in Wales. 

The challenge the government has set itself is twofold. As it stands, the extension and re-implementation of lockdown measures has yet to be matched by the extension and re-implementation of economic support. The governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, is the latest to recommend a “rethink” about the ending of the furlough scheme, while the Confederation of British Industry is calling for further relief for businesses. 

​​​​And the calls for government assistance are growing: the change in approach means that sports clubs will go without the financial support brought by match-day income, while night clubs have yet to be able to open. 

The second part of the challenge is: how can businesses and households manage both the challenges of a fresh lockdown, and the preparation for an end to the Brexit transition period on 31 December? The government made a virtue of not pausing any of its pet projects during the lockdown – pushing ahead with reforms to defence procurement, beginning to remodel the civil service and pursuing Brexit on the same timetable as before. We may about to discover the dangers of that approach.

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