The Week In Policy 14th - 18th June
Mixed reviews this week. The delay to the roadmap, though not at all a surprise, is a huge disappointment for businesses across the country. It was so close to being hitch-free, but despite the groans all round, it is probably best to avoid another lockdown. In better news, the extension to the ban on commercial evictions will be welcomed by businesses now facing extra pressures due to the delay. With the Free Trade Agreement with Australia, our arch sporting rivals are now set to become bigger trading partners. But, fuelled by the flow of cheaper wine and whisky travelling between us, we can be assured that the atmosphere at the next Ashes Series will be as competitive as ever. Though not quite as competitive as the debate about hybrid working. Yes working from home is more convenient, with no commute and an extra hour in bed. But many of us in all corners of the country are now completely fed up with the building work next door, the shaky broadband connection, and the social interaction with many sets of just heads and shoulders. Warning! Delays ahead. ETA 19th July
- On Monday the Prime Minster announced that the reopening of the economy would be delayed by four weeks, with a potential review after week two.
- This news wasn’t unexpected, but is still a huge disappointment to many.
- Businesses are frustrated at the lack of certainty, and the added cost of further restrictions, and fun deprived youths just want to get back in the clubs.
- The good news is, however, sporting events are allowing spectators. Phew.
- IoD responds to delay in lockdown easing in England | Institute of Directors | IoD
Consumer Price Index stats – over inflated, but not about to blow up
- The Consumer Price Inflation figure has risen to 2.1%, slightly above the government’s target.
- While this is reason to be slightly worried, economists have previously estimated that inflation would rise to 2.5% before tapering off, and economists are never wrong.
- The IoD’s Director of Policy Roger Barker discussed this on talkRADIO on Wednesday morning:
- talkRADIO listen again | talkRADIO (7.25am time stamp)
Australia Trade deal – nothing to wine about!
- This week the UK signed what has been called a ‘historic’ trade deal with Australia.
- So far, an Agreement In Principle (AIP) is being written up, meaning the deal is not legally binding yet, but the terms have been agreed.
- This is good news for some businesses, who will be able to trade with Australia tariff free in industries such as Scotch whisky, wine, and cars. But concerns have also been expressed about the implications for price undercutting and product standards, particularly in the agricultural sector.
- The deal also makes it much easier for people to travel to, and live in Australia.
- Doubts about how the agricultural element would harm the British farming industry have been responded to with a 15 year phasing in period.
- Most importantly, the deal paves the way for future FTAs, the next in our sights being the CPTPP – Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Further shelter from the storm
- The government has announced that the existing ban on commercial evictions will be extended to March 2022.
- This is welcome news for businesses across the UK, but the IoD is still calling for the Treasury to do more, as many other support schemes will be tapered off in the next month.
- IoD responds to the extension of the ban on commercial evictions | Institute of Directors | IoD
Scaling the summit
- Last weekend, the leaders of the G7 countries met in Cornwall to discuss policy priorities such as the climate crisis, the response to COVID-19, and the future of free and fair trade.
- Despite all good intentions, the fresh Cornish sea air was slightly marred by the presence of political tension.
- The EU countries threatened the UK with a trade war; President Biden did his best to bang some heads together over the Northern Ireland Protocol, and the climate response somehow turned into another anti-China play.
- Follow the Green Belt and Road - the G7’s response to the climate crisis | Institute of Directors | IoD
Hybrid Working: the life work balance
- With workers finding their home office space much more convenient than the one at the end of the commute, the government is considering future plans on the practicalities of hybrid working.
- They will issue a consultation this summer regarding whether bosses can force their employees to work in the office, or whether working from home should be a right.
- Critics say this could be extremely damaging to productivity, and will harm certain sectors.
- However, given that organisations will have very different needs, they themselves should be best placed to work with their employees to find the best solution that works for them.
Week ahead in Policy
Given the delay to the lockdown, we are relying on Parliament to put their heads together to increase support for businesses still struggling with the fallout from the pandemic. Monday will be a tough day for all of us, as we watch Freedom Day come and leave us without anything it promised. But at least we have the football to keep us occupied.
Tuesday 22nd June
- Westminster Hall debate on the recovery of businesses in Central London to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Oral Questions for HM Treasury on issues such as the Northern Ireland Protocol, furlough, and business support at the end of the transition period.
Wednesday 23rd June
- Business, Environment and Industrial Strategy Committee oral evidence on Net Zero and the UN Climate Summits.
- International Trade Committee on UK Export Finance
Thursday 24th June
- General debate on the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership
- European Affairs Committee oral evidence on the EU-UK relationship.