UK Covid-19 Restrictions To Be Extended Due To Spreading Of Delta Strain 

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a delay of the next phase of England’s Covid-19 recovery and reopening efforts this week. According to reports from the British media, England will likely delay entering into the next phase of their reopening by four weeks amid a surge of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus which was initially discovered in India. 

Originally, restrictions were due to be lifted on June 21st. These restrictions included the use of face masks, limiting the number of individuals who can meet indoors and outdoors, and what time establishments like nightclubs and bars can close. Reports suggest that the UK could be waiting until July 19th for any of these restrictions to be lifted or modified. 

Currently indoor gatherings are to be limited to six people indoors at a time and 30 people outdoors. People are being advised to continue to work from home whenever possible. 

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Public Health England, a group that has been compiling pandemic data for the UK, has reported this week that 42,323 new cases of the Delta variant have been recorded throughout the country, this is a 240% increase when compared to the amount of cases reported in the previous week. 

So far more than 70 million vaccine doses have been administered throughout the UK, and around 80% of the nation has received at least one dose. However, Public Health England reported that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were only 33% effective against the delta variant after a single show. 

Johnson told the media that he was prepared to continue lockdown and remain cautious when it comes to future reopenings. When it is eventually implemented, the fourth (and final) stage of the UK government’s “roadmap” of lockdown will allow for greater social gatherings to occur with less restrictions in terms of facial coverings and social distancing. 

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So far, all three of the government’s previous reopening stages have worked out to plan, so this delay in reopening as an extra precaution is being relatively well received, especially now that more England residents are receiving their vaccines. 

Investors and economic leaders aren’t too worried about the delays in reopenings either, especially considering it’s only set to last another month. 

“Leisure companies could be worst affected by any delay to lockdown easing in England as it will require a continuation of the social distancing rules, meaning pubs and restaurants can’t operate at full capacity,” said Russ Mould, investment director at British stockbroker AJ Bell.

“However, investors don’t seem too bothered by the risk, perhaps because speculation points to a mere four-week delay, albeit during a seasonally busy time.”

Only time will tell how long these delays will last, but the government is remaining positive that the UK will return to a greater sense of normalcy this summer.

COVID Lockdown in the UK

UK Announces New Lockdown And Mass Vaccinations To End Spread Of Covid-19

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced a national recovery plan this week after the United Kingdom entered another lockdown amid a massive increase in the spread of Covid-19

UK vs Virus

United Kingdom Extends Measures To Combat COVID-19 Outbreak

The world has been rapidly trying to respond to every new development that the World Health Organization and Centers For Disease Control release in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking every recommended step and measure that these officials deliver to us is of the utmost importance right now. The United States and United Kingdom are two of the world’s countries that have been criticized the most for their lack of a response to the coronavirus. Now, the U.S. is quarantining itself more and more every day, and the U.K. has made some major policy changes that will be made official this week.

The United Kingdom is projecting to shut down all their schools this Friday until further notice as their main response to the coronavirus pandemic. The only exceptions to this rule will involve any schools that are looking after the children of government officials and key workers involved in the combating of coronavirus, as well as more vulnerable children who lack the proper resources to survive on their own without the aid of school programming. 

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In England and Wales all academic final exams have been cancelled for the time being, it’s predicted that areas in Scotland and Northern Ireland will be making the same type of changes. The death rate in the United Kingdom has reached 104, after an additional 30 people died within a week, prompting more serious restrictive measures to be implemented. 

According to reports, “confirmed cases in the UK rose to 2,626 on Wednesday, from 1,950 on Tuesday. There have been 56,221 tests carried out in the UK for Covid-19, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative. The government says it plans to more than double the number of tests being carried out in England to 25,000 a day.” 

Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland will all follow the UK’s lead within the coming weeks as well. In terms of industry worker protections, the European government is bringing forward emergency legislation policies to protect private renters from eviction, after multiple complaints. Other policies involved a new advert that’s being spread across the UK’s television, radio and internet media outlets to remind everyone to stay home as much as they can and to continue to practice good hygiene.  

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson also announced a series of new key measures that are designed to specifically target individuals with coronavirus currently, and work to maintain their isolation and health. 

England’s Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, told the press that “assessments or exams would not go ahead this year and performance tables would not be published. Officials are working with exam boards to ensure that children get the qualifications that they need, and schools have already been preparing for a shutdown for some time, with some creating homework packs or setting up ways of working online.”

In addition to all of these measures, parts of Europe are enforcing strict travel bans while also working to return tourists to their home countries as smoothly and safely as possible. UK supermarkets are also going to begin placing limits on how much one person can purchase at a time to maintain food rations. 

Closing the schools is the best way to prevent the spread of infection. While young children are the most likely to survive coronavirus and have the least amount of symptoms, their ability to spread it is just as severe as the average adult. Right now, the focus is on maintaining the spread, and curing those infected. Europe is following suit with the rest of the world now when it comes to taking the proper measures to ensure its citizens safety. 

Ballot Box

Brexit Virtually Certain as Conservatives Sweep U.K. Election

A historic election in the U.K. has given the country’s Conservative Party a powerful majority in the British Parliament, allowing controversial Prime Minister Boris Johnson to essentially reshape British politics for years to come. Though the Labour Party had hoped that the recent election would remove Johnson from the position of Prime Minister, paving the way for a second referendum to potentially prevent the country’s departure from the European Union, voters decided overwhelmingly that Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party was more fit to lead Britain.

Johnson, whose primary political message has been a promise to “get Brexit done” as quickly as possible, now faces little to no opposition as his power has just been augmented considerably. That being said, much of Britain’s future is now uncertain, as the negotiations involving the country’s departure from the European Union continue to be complicated and controversial. Experts are uncertain about the long-term ramifications of leaving the EU, though most economists project that the economic downturn already caused by the 2016 referendum, in which a slim majority of the country voted to leave the EU, will only worsen.

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Now, the country will almost certainly leave the European Union early next year, a polarizing move which is sure to delight half the country and frustrate the other half. For many living in the U.K., Brexit represents a rejection of liberal ideas in favor of conservative ones, as the decision to leave the E.U. is connected with anti-immigrant sentiment as well as nationalistic pride. Indeed, yesterday’s victory indicates how thoroughly this conservative sentiment has enraptured the British electorate, as the Conservative Party’s victory is the largest the country has seen since the victory that led to the election of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1987. The election represents a tremendous victory for Boris Johnson particularly because his tenure as Prime Minister has gotten off to a rocky start, characterized by several defeats in Parliament, as he was legally blocked from pursuing a no-deal Brexit and a deal he negotiated with the European Union was voted down in Parliament.

Now, however, Boris Johnson will be in power for five years, a period of time during which he has the power to make tremendous political changes to the country, with the historically consequential Brexit being the first order of business. The value of the pound skyrocketed after news of the election spread, reflecting a belief that the chaos that has for years defined British politics will soon subside and the country’s departure from the EU will be orderly and largely uncontested in Parliament, as Johnson’s power to negotiate terms of a Brexit deal in accordance with his wishes has expanded tremendously.

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That being said, Johnson still faces some opposition in Parliament. Specifically, the Scottish National Party, which gained more than a dozen seats in the election, stridently opposes Mr. Johnson’s desire to get Brexit done as quickly as possible, and the party may push for calls for a referendum on Scottish independence, which would allow Scotland to remain in the EU by breaking ties with England. Additionally, Mr. Johnson’s negotiations to leave the EU are likely to be influenced by the country’s working class, who are likely to focus on invigorating Britain’s manufacturing economy and protecting the economy from imports, a vision that contradicts the Prime Minister’s desires.

International observers have had a wide range of perspectives on the issue, with many analysts judging the country’s historic election, which will have ramifications around the world, as a sign of exhaustion and frustration with democracy in an information age that is saturated with political news of all ideologies and biases. With the vote to impeach President Trump being held today in the United States House of Representatives, one thing is for certain: the moment we are currently living in is a consequential and pivotal one in the history of global democracy, which faces unprecedented threats from multiple fronts.

Man Voting

UK Heads For Polls As Pre-Christmas Election Date Looms

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson finally got his wish as Parliament waved through a law that will see the country go to the polls on Thursday, December 12. It will be the third General Election in four years.

The US will look on with interest as Conservative Party leader Johnson and his government are already said to be in discussions with President Trump and officials about a new trade deal, if and when the UK finally quits the European Union (EU).

Brexit, which has been rumbling on since 2016 when the country narrowly voted “out” in a Yes-No referendum, looks set to be the biggest issue of the forthcoming election campaign.

By a margin of 438 votes to 20, the House of Commons approved legislation paving the way for the first December election since 1923. Mr Johnson has said the public must be “given a choice” over the future of Brexit and the country.

He hopes the election will give him a fresh mandate for his Brexit deal and break the current Parliamentary deadlock, which has led to the UK’s exit being further delayed to 31 January.

Opposition and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in response: “This election is a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our country and take on the vested interests holding people back.” He added his party would “launch the most ambitious and radical campaign for real change that our country has ever seen”.

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But some Labour MPs have expressed misgivings over the timing of the election, believing only another referendum can settle the Brexit question for good. A total of 127 Labour MPs, including Mr Corbyn, supported the election.

Mr Johnson told his Conservative Party colleagues it was time for the country to “come together to get Brexit done”. He stated: “It’ll be a tough election and we are going to do the best we can.”

The UK’s minority parties may have a big say in shaping the next Parliament, with a new Prime Minister set to be named on December 13th. The centrist Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) and the Scottish National Party (SNP) both see the election as a chance to ask voters whether Brexit should happen at all.

The pro-EU leader of the Lib Dems, Jo Swinson, has pitched herself as “the Liberal Democrat candidate for prime minister”. She adds: ”It is our best chance to elect a government to stop Brexit.”

For the SNP, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said an election was an opportunity for Scotland to hold another independence referendum. “The SNP is ready for an election. We stand ready to take the fight to the Tories, to bring down this undemocratic government, and give Scotland the chance to escape from Brexit and decide our own future,” she opined. “Scotland has been ignored and treated with contempt by Westminster, and this election is an opportunity to bring that to an end.”

The Scottish Conservatives claimed voting for their party would keep Scotland in the UK.

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Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage welcomed the election, tweeting that the deadlock in Parliament had been broken and “Brexit now has a chance to succeed”.

If Mr Johnson’s party wins, it’s expected Brexit legislation can be completed by the beginning of 2020, allowing Britain to leave the EU and be free to set up trade deals outside the European bloc. Negotiations would also then begin with the EU on a new trading relationship with the UK.

However, estimates say a deal currently on the table – which Mr Johnson will use as the central plank of his election campaign – could leave the UK £70bn worse off than if it had remained in the EU.

A study by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) concluded that growth would be 3.5% lower in 10 years’ time under the deal. The independent forecaster’s outlook is one of the first assessments of how the economy will fare under the new deal.

But the Treasury said it plans on a ‘more ambitious’ agreement with the EU than NIESR is basing its findings on. A spokesman said: “We are aiming to negotiate a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU, which is more ambitious than the standard free trade deal that NIESR has based its findings on.”

NIESR said approval of the Prime Minister’s deal “would reduce the risk of a disorderly outcome, but eliminate the possibility of a closer trading relationship with the EU”. Despite the agreement between the EU and the UK removing uncertainty, customs and regulatory barriers would hinder goods and services trade with the continent leaving all regions of the United Kingdom worse off than they would be if the UK stayed in the EU, NIESR said.

“We estimate that, in the long run, the economy would be 3.5% smaller with the deal compared to continued EU membership,” it added.


Brexit Delayed for a Third Time

Much to the dismay of U.K. citizens who are exhausted by the ongoing drama created by the decision to withdraw from the European Union, the deadline for leaving has been extended yet again, from October 31st of this year to January 31st, 2020. The extension was granted after Parliament again voted against a deal Boris Johnson made with the E.U. and resulted from legislation requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension if a deal could not be agreed upon. Although Johnson famously stated that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit again, he was compelled by law to do just that, and the E.U. agreed to postpone the departure for an additional three months.

Under what European Council President Donald Tusk called a “flextension,” the U.K. will be able to leave before January 31st if it is able to agree on a deal in advance of the deadline. If the past few years of Brexit negotiations are any indication, however, the country’s ability to agree upon a deal within the next three months seems unlikely. 

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In response to Parliament’s failure to ratify his deal, Johnson has advocated for holding an election to form a new government, which he hopes would be able to break the deadlock Parliament is currently experiencing. Though previous attempts to hold another election and reform the government have failed, support for another election has been growing among different parties in Parliament. Today, members of Parliament voted against Johnson’s request to hold an election on December 12th, but Johnson reportedly will try again to call an election on Tuesday.

The extension was announced during ongoing protests against Brexit, held by citizens who fear the negative political impacts of leaving the European Union. Protestors advocate for a second referendum to again determine whether the U.K. should leave the E.U., but the probability of this referendum being held is low. Current polls suggest that, if another election is held, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would gain seats in Parliament, making it easier to pass a deal to leave the European Union. 

If another election is held, the Labour Party is expected to campaign on a platform of pushing for another referendum, though they have stated they would not publicly endorse either the option to leave or to remain. The results of a second referendum are hard to predict; while some people who voted to leave now regret their decision after witnessing the political chaos that has unfolded, others who voted to remain may now desire to leave just to get it over with. And the extreme fatigue many are feeling over the ordeal of Brexit has discouraged some U.K. citizens from engaging in politics at all, as some who voted in previous elections have said they would choose not to vote in future ones.


Europe & British Union Flags

Chaos Unfolds in UK as Parliament Takes Unprecedented Actions Over Brexit

On June 23rd, 2016, a referendum was held in the UK to determine whether or not the country should remain a member of the European Union. A majority, 51.9%, of voters indicated that the UK should leave the EU, and though the referendum was not legally binding, the government has committed to following through with the decision, resulting in fierce negotiations about how the departure should be carried out. In response to the referendum, the then-Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, giving formal notice to the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the union and allowing negotiations to begin. The original deadline to leave the EU, March 29, 2019, was extended twice as a serious of tumultuous debates in Parliament raged on. The current deadline to leave the union is October 31st, and the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made clear that he will resist any further efforts to extend the deadline. The term “Brexit,” a portmanteau of “Britain” and “exit,” has emerged as shorthand to refer to the UK’s departure from the EU.

The decision to leave the European Union is perhaps one of the most significant political choices made by the UK in modern times, and the consequences of doing so are difficult to predict, though nearly all economists predict that Brexit will have a strong negative impact on the European economy generally, and claim that the result of the referendum has already had a damaging effect. However, a second referendum to reconsider the decision is unlikely, and much of the current debate in Parliament is centered around whether the UK should leave the European Union without negotiating an agreement with the EU, a so called “no-deal Brexit,” or whether a deal should be pursued, delaying the governmental process of leaving the EU even further beyond what already has been several years of argumentation. Among experts, a no-deal Brexit is considered the worst of all possible outcomes, as the consequences of doing so would be more unstructured, chaotic, and destructive than making an arrangement with the EU to ease the transition.

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Recently, Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister of the UK, was elected, having run on a platform of taking the country out of the EU as quickly as possible, even if that means doing so without a deal. Previous attempts to negotiate a deal have been unsuccessful, as Parliament has been unable to come to an agreement as to which deal to pursue. The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, was unable to negotiate a withdrawal agreement, and resigned as a consequence.

Despite Parliament’s ongoing failure to decide upon terms for withdrawal, however, most members of Parliament strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit, for fear of disastrous economic and political consequences, and have taken unprecedented action in an attempt to prevent it, in so doing shattering constitutional norms. Some MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit are members of Johnson’s party, the Conservative Party. As a result of these party members taking the highly irregular act of breaking ranks with the Prime Minister, Johnson no longer has a majority lead in Parliament, diminishing his political power substantially. In a controversial effort to ensure a no-deal Brexit, Johnson decided to suspend Parliament for five weeks, to reconvene just a few days before the next European Council, in which negotiations for a withdrawal agreement could occur, and just a few weeks before the scheduled Brexit date. This decision was met with fierce opposition from most members of Parliament, who sought judicial action preventing the suspension of Parliament and successfully passed a bill into law requiring the Prime Minister to delay the Brexit date yet again unless a deal is reached. If Johnson defies this law, he faces potential jail time. Amidst the controversy, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has announced he will step down before the October 31st deadline.

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As time has progressed since the referendum, public opinion in the UK has shifted slightly in the direction of opposing Brexit, in light of the political chaos the decision has wrought and increased awareness of the likely negative consequences. Additionally, trust in political representatives generally has waned, as citizens are frustrated with the government’s inability to carry out the country’s agenda. Johnson has claimed, not unreasonably, that if the country decides yet again to delay Brexit, citizens, particularly members of the Conservative Party he ostensibly leads, will view this as a failure of democracy. A decision to remain in the EU or a second referendum, while very unlikely, could also be interpreted as a failure of democracy, as while referendums are not legally binding they are intended as a means by which the general public provides direction and sets goals for the government. Though the political crisis in the UK is one entirely of the country’s own creation, it serves as a test of the strength of its democratic system of government, and irrespective of the outcome, Brexit will certainly have major political ramifications during the foreseeable future and beyond.