by Namrata Majithia 10th June 2020
10th June 2020 UK Political, Economic and Social Update during Covid-19

As the easing of lockdown continues and the pace of work picks up here in the UK, we will be changing the frequency of this newsletter from once a week to every two weeks from now on.

Cases of the virus are lessening, and the unlocking of the British economy continues, with shops, amusement parks and zoos due to reopen from Monday onwards.

Covid-19 no longer dominates the front pages, with the recent Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the UK, plus the Madeleine McCann case now also creating headlines.

Today, June 10th, is also Dia de Portugal, or Portugal’s National Day, which is celebrated in Portugal and around the world by the 5m+ first and second generation Portuguese that currently live outside Portugal.


10th June UK Political Update – Shopping is back on the agenda

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will today set out which sectors of the economy will be allowed to resume business on the 15th of June, including the reopening of shops, zoos and drive-in cinemas.

Other businesses, including pubs, restaurants, hairdressers and gyms, would remain shut until the 4th of July at the earliest, Alok Sharma, the business secretary, said yesterday.

The two-metre social distancing rule is to be relaxed once coronavirus infections fall sufficiently to open up the hospitality sector.

This week also saw the beginning of the 14 day compulsory quarantine system for all arrivals at British airports and ports – although it looks likely that air bridges with low infection countries such as Portugal will be agreed by the end of June.  The quarantine policy is reviewed by the government every three weeks.

Deaths in England and Wales are falling towards normal levels, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, but many more people are dying outside hospitals than usual.  An official total of 40,883 people have died to date, although the actual figure once other deaths outside hospitals and care homes are counted is thought to be nearer 60,000.


10th June UK Economic Update – Brexit talks are in deep trouble

The  Guardian reports today that the UK government will tell the EU on Friday it is not going to seek an extension to the Brexit transition period, the paymaster general, Penny Mordaunt, has said.

She told the House of Commons in an update on Brexit talks that she and Michael Gove would “emphasise that we will not be extending the transition period” when they meet EU counterparts at a Brexit joint committee meeting on Friday.

It led to an immediate accusation of the government behaving recklessly, with the Scottish National party MP Pete Wishart accusing the Conservatives of trying to “heap misery upon misery” with Covid-19 and Brexit “the twin horsemen of the economic apocalypse” denying any prospect of recovery.

Mordaunt insisted the country would not be “barrelling off a cliff edge” and hoped to have a deal by autumn. She said the government would be able to divert money from the EU coffers to “level up” the British economy.

Mordaunt also strongly hinted that no-deal planning was back on the table. Asked what preparations the government was making for a collapse in talks she told the House it “would be prudent and wise for us to prepare for every scenario”.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, pressed the government to honour the “oven-ready” deal Boris Johnson promised in his general election campaign.

She was speaking as the former environment secretary Theresa Villiers said the government would not succumb to EU demands to access British fishing waters.
“We are not going to see the compromises coming from Boris’s government,” Villiers said, arguing that the common fisheries policy (CFP) was “grossly unfair”.

Her comments came days after Brexit talks over a future trade deal hit the buffers with four major areas of disagreement, including access to British seas for EU boats.

“I just don’t see that the UK government is going to just shift in any substantive way from what is put on the table already,” Villiers told an Institute for Government webinar on Tuesday.

The impasse over sharing British fishing waters has thrown the prospects of a Brexit deal into disarray, with the UK and the EU calling for an acceleration of talks to try to break the logjam in July.

The UK has consistently said it will not extend the transition period, which ends in December.


10th June UK Social Update – Football is back on the agenda, with a Portuguese flavour

While the airlines plan to restart some flights to Portugal from early July, in anticipation of an ‘air bridge’ being created between the two countries, UK travellers are having to decide whether to book flights online now, in order to be sure of getting a seat, without knowing if they will have to quarantine on their return.

Football matches are restarting from 20th June, without fans in the stands, but many people are looking forward to a pint in a pub garden watching a televised match. These few remaining games will decide the Premier League’s winners and losers and also confirm which clubs are relegated or promoted between the English football divisions.

A consortium of Portuguese investors from the sports and financial areas has made a proposal to buy a majority shareholding in the second division English football club Charlton Athletic.

A representative from Portugal’s Corporate Football Organisation (CFO) Fernando Corte-Real,  confirmed that the process “is at an advanced stage”.

The current majority shareholder, with 65 percent, is East Street Investments (ESI), linked to Abu-Dhabi-based entrepreneur Tahnoon Nimer, who bought the stake for one pound in January 2020 from former owner Roland Duchatelet.

ESI announced its intention to sell the stake after a disagreement with former president Matt Southall, who owns the remaining 35 percent.
Fernando Corte-Real told Portuguese news agency LUSA that CFO Portugal “manages funds and assets for some investors who see in this change in the market some chance to diversify and see football with other eyes”.

The current crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, he said, offers challenges but also opportunities.

“We believe that the negative impact is more at the level of top clubs, clubs that have quite high structural loads. Obviously, Charlton has some risks, but we think they’re easier to manage in a club of this dimension and that it’s possible to progress and evolve into the Premier League within 3-5 years,” he added.