The Week in Policy 21st June 2021
21st June. Freedom Day. Summer Solstice. But, consistent with the way the past year has been going, it slipped through our fingers, and graced us with torrential rain. 21 was also the number of days Edwin Poots lasted as leader of the DUP, after some internal party revolting. Indeed, this was a strategic decision, he wasn't just chickening out. Speaking of which, the war on cold meats that was raging between the EU and the UK seems to be thawing. Let’s hope we can come to some sort of an agreement before all the barbeque weather is lost. This may not matter quite so much if more countries are added to the green list this summer, and as the vaccine rollout continues to jab through the population, it’s looking more likely that a trip abroad is on the cards. And while Brits plan to spread into the Med, the government is negotiating a deal for the Pacific. Entry into the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership could be just the stepping-stone we need for a US-UK FTA. We can cross that pond when we get to it.
- This week, an IoD survey revealed that directors are feeling more confident than ever about the economy, and how their business will fare in the next 12 months.
- We recorded the highest level of optimism since the IoD began tracking confidence in 2016.
- Having suffered the worst of it this year, with the dual nightmare of the pandemic and Brexit transition combined, directors can breathe easier now that things are finally looking up.
- IoD: Directors’ confidence hits record high | Institute of Directors | IoD
A letter to better the debtor
- This week, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng wrote us a letter promising that HMRC would be taking a lighter approach to enforcement of debt owed to government that will have accrued during the pandemic.
- If HMRC are true to their word, businesses may be able to avoid a wave of insolvencies this summer.
- Dr Roger Barker, Policy and Governance Lead at the IoD was quoted in the FT saying “it would represent a significant shift in the way that HMRC deals with insolvency — a much less punitive approach than companies have experienced in the past”.
- HMRC to go easy on struggling UK companies to help with Covid debt | Financial Times (ft.com)
Negotiating the Pacifics
- The UK and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership nations have launched formal negotiations regarding the UK’s entry into the trading bloc.
- Aside from being a bit of a mouthful, especially when in its acronym form, the CPTPP is one of the largest free trade areas in the world, accounting for 13% of global GDP in 2019. This would rise to 16% with the inclusion of the UK.
- However, as the UK already has Free Trade Agreements with 8 of the 11 members, so far, the deal would mainly be symbolic. It would be a statement to future global trading partners that we are a collaborative player, and have a lot to offer, wink wink nudge nudge Biden.
- The true value of this accession would be when other countries decide to join. So far, the US hasn’t expressed any interest, but hopefully we can be united states soon.
Almost off to a flying start…
- Talk of holidaying somewhere other than Cornwall has become something of a far off, untouchable aspiration. Whispers of “would you do it?” have become the norm.
- But, with the announcement of 16 new countries being added to the ‘green list’, this could all change.
- Luckily for those who like island hopping, the Balearic Islands, Malta, some of the Caribbean, and British Overseas Territories have graduated to the Green List.
- According to the Department for Transport, those who have had two vaccines will not have to quarantine upon return, but this will be implemented in phases. So thus far, the best action to take would be simply not to return from your holiday.
- Critics claim the government hasn’t gone far enough. The EasyJet chief Garry Wilson said that this plan “simply isn’t ambitious enough”. He wonders why the Canary Islands and the Greek Islands haven’t been added to the list. Of Kos, I agree.
- But others have more positively argued that this is a good first step that will see the travel industry take off again.
Meating in the middle
- The EU and UK are coming together after a beefy dispute regarding chilled meats and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
- The EU is much stricter about the trade of meat than the UK, and requires meat products to be frozen. Not as easy to eat, but definitely lasts longer.
- The European Commission is expected to grant a three-month extension to a grace period before restrictions come into force on exports of chilled meat products. This grace period should have ended in June, but will be extended to September if all goes to plan.
- This compromise is a good first step, and hopefully will lead to further amelioration between the two sides of the channel. After all, the only war anyone should be having on sausages, is who gets the last one.
Week ahead in Policy
Next week, from the 1st July, the furlough scheme and business rates relief will begin to be tapered off. But, it’s not long until the 19th July, when the full reopening of the economy is good reason to stay optimistic.
This Tuesday morning, our very own Senior Policy Advisor Joe Fitzsimons will be giving evidence at a House of Lords Committee debate. He will discuss the long-term impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on towns and cities, as well as what the future of hybrid working could look like, all drawing on evidence directors have given us via our policy voice platform.
But most importantly, Wimbledon is starting next week, and they are allowing spectators. So if we seem a little distracted for the next two weeks, it’s because we have one eye on the TV, with a half drunk glass of Pimm’s in one hand, and a spoonful of strawberries and cream in the other.