Boris shows some backbone

A lot of people – including quite a few in Britain’s Conservative party – don’t like Dominic Cummings, special adviser to PM Boris Johnson and a key figure in the Vote Leave campaign in the 2016 Brexit referendum and the 2019 Brexit-focused general election.

So there was some undisguised joy when it was suggested that he had – like some other prominent and now departed public figures – broken the lockdown rules, in his case by travelling from London to Durham to ensure emergency childcare. Continue reading “Boris shows some backbone”

Let’s hope Europe’s economic policies are better than its approach to lockdown

So just how effective were the different lockdown policies implemented by Europe’s diverse states?

Bloomberg has tried to make a comparison using an index complied by the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. Continue reading “Let’s hope Europe’s economic policies are better than its approach to lockdown”

Boris’s Covid strategy is simpler than you might think

It’s a bit early for a commission of inquiry into the UK’s Covid response but Parliament’s Science and Technology committee could not resist sharing some of its preliminary thoughts with PM Boris Johnson, by means of a letter and press release.

Coming from a government-dominated group, it was never going to be ‘J’accuse’, nor even a masterpiece of forensic dissection.  But it provides useful pointers to the politics of the crisis and the British government’s approach. Continue reading “Boris’s Covid strategy is simpler than you might think”

Agriculture a difficult issue in US-UK trade negotiations; what a surprise

London’s Financial Times reports on a struggle within Britain’s cabinet on how much to cut farm tariffs in any US-UK trade deal.  It’s not the most edifying reporting – and the economics are even more questionable.

Of course, there’s always artificiality in the briefing of intra-government squabbles.  Political slogans predominate and reporters struggle to present the real views of ministers who can be incapable of understanding, let alone articulating, the underlying economic arguments.  But here the gap between presentation and reality is truly remarkable. Continue reading “Agriculture a difficult issue in US-UK trade negotiations; what a surprise”

A US-UK trade agreement seems likely; a great one, less so

Remember Ed Balls?  He was British PM Gordon Brown’s economic guru and a candidate for the leadership of the Labour party, before losing his seat in the 2015 election and heading to Harvard.

He’s written a paper on the prospects for a post-Brexit US-UK free trade agreement.  It’s worth reading, not so much for the conclusions, but for its insight into the analysis of Brexit’s more thoughtful critics.

He thinks both Trump and Boris have strong incentives to strike a deal before the US election.  But it’s highly likely to be aspirational, rather than substantive. Continue reading “A US-UK trade agreement seems likely; a great one, less so”

Boris’s (not so great) unlocking

Boris Johnson spoke to the British people on Sunday evening on next steps in the Covid crisis.  Say what you like, but he’s a great communicator.  Another example of how the crisis is raising the game among world leaders   …  with idiosyncrasies, of course.

Johnson laid out the UK government’s plans for cautious unlocking, essentially sequencing steps as infection and mortality rates go down. Continue reading “Boris’s (not so great) unlocking”

Britain and Sweden are helping test how far we should go with prescriptive rules

Britain’s government is hard at work on plans for moving out of the UK’s version of what we call lockdown.  According to the Financial Times:

“Hot desking will be curtailed, staff canteens will stay closed and lifts kept half-empty in workplaces across the country under Boris Johnson’s plan to ease the lockdown in the coming weeks … Companies will be expected to ensure staggered shifts and keep employees apart — while at work and during breaks — with 2-metre distancing enforced by floor tape. Staff will be told to avoid sharing pens under the draft proposals, and steer clear of face-to-face meetings.” Continue reading “Britain and Sweden are helping test how far we should go with prescriptive rules”