After his recent health scare, British prime minister Boris Johnson is back to work. The controversial politician, 55, was away from Downing Street for three weeks after contracting COVID-19. During the illness, Johnson spent three nights in intensive care and is reported to have been critically ill. Fortunately, due to the diligent work of NHS staff at London's St Thomas' Hospital, he has since made a full recovery.
So, what does Boris Johnson have to contend with now he's back at his desk? Well, first of all, there is the issue of ending the current lockdown. As Britain moves into its second month of lockdown, there is now a pressing need to find a way forward. While health experts want to prioritize social distancing, keeping new infections to a minimum, there is also a rapidly contracting economy to worry about. With the government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme reportedly paying the wages of around a quarter of the UK's workforce, there is a pressing need to get the country back to work. At a potential cost that runs into the billions, it is clear that the scheme cannot last indefinitely. Despite the scheme needing to end, it is hoped that it has saved many businesses from shedding staff as well as saving the country’s economy in the longer term.
There are several theories, but most entail the idea of sectioning off society so that those most at risk can be protected. This would seem like a practical approach and has also been championed by many in the business community. While it is clear that COVID-19 will be part of the landscape for some time to come, Britain needs to plan for the short to medium term. With Brexit on the horizon, a severely damaged economy could harm Britain for decades to come.
As well as COVID-19 and the looming Brexit deadline, Boris Johnson's partner Carrie Symonds, has just had a baby! Wilfred Lawrie Nicholas Johnson is his first child with Ms. Symonds, and will no doubt bring some much-needed joy to Downing Street. With a torrent of negative news stories, the arrival of baby Johnson is a bit of light relief in what has been a rough year in the news.
In a show of solidarity with the NHS staff that saved his life, Mr. Johnson decided to use Nicholas as his son’s middle name. This is in recognition of the work of two of the doctors who treated the prime minister: Dr. Nick Price and Prof Nick Hart. The two doctors sent the happy couple their best wishes after the naming.
It is clear that Johnson's illness was serious, and the conclusion could have been catastrophic had he not been cared for. The impact the world would have faced with the loss of one of the world’s most powerful men would have turned COVID-19 into an even worse tragedy. It would have shown the world just how dangerous this virus can be, even for someone like Boris Johnson.
Though he was recovering from COVID-19, the prime minister was present at the birth of the child. It is also believed that Ms. Symonds had previously recovered from the disease. With all that is going on, the Johnsons will have to balance the addition to the family with the world pandemic and the UK’s recovery.
With the COVID-19 outbreak still causing huge issues in the UK, it is easy to forget about the looming Brexit deadline. Despite only having a few months left to finalise a trade deal with the European Union, the UK has seen little in the way of movement. While this is understandable given the COVID-19 outbreak, the big question will be why the deadline hasn't been extended. Many feel that there are ideological factors at play and that COVID-19 has actually been a useful cover.
With the UK currently in an 11-month transition period, getting deals done is now urgent. The UK has spent over 40 years harmonising its rules with the European Union, and many felt that 11 months was not long enough for a deal to be done. With only 7 months remaining, and the current COVID-19 lockdown to contend with, the fear now is that the UK will end its transition period without a deal in place. As little preparation has been done for life in the UK without a deal, the worry is understandable.
While the UK is doing little to end their relationship with the EU amicably, they are doing rather more when it comes to a US/UK deal. The last few years have seen the UK and US governments cozy up to each other with a new free trade agreement in mind. While the UK will clearly need to enter new trade agreements after Brexit, many are concerned about what this will mean for businesses in the UK. Due to the very different rules that govern US commerce, it may be very difficult to harmonize when the UK is more used to the EU system.
Another big concern is what will happen to immigration after Brexit. As things stand, EU citizens will no longer be allowed to enter the UK to live and work under the current rules after the 31st of December 2020. It is believed that January 2021 will see the introduction of a points-based system that differs from the one in place now.
Whether the system will be overhauled between now and next January remains to be seen. It is far more likely that EU citizens will become subject to the current rules that are imposed on those from outside of the European Union. This is at least until a replacement system can be designed.
While times will get tougher for those who wish to enter the UK from Europe, they will likely improve for other would-be migrants. The UK needs vast numbers of migrants annually to thrive, the coming years are going to see changes that should benefit migrants. As a country built on economic migration, the UK will need to develop an effective system, which should benefit migrants in the long-term, whilst balancing immigration numbers.
Worried about your immigration status and stay in the UK this lockdown? Read When you Should Use the Home Office COVID-19 Helpline
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