“We’ll never have had it so bad …”
It’s the ‘Day After’ and Rishi-no-longer-dishi has presented the covid bill, ahem: the budget to the nation. What a surprise: “we” will all have to pay for it. That was totally unforeseeable, wasn’t it! For once, covid ‘news’ have been relegated to the ‘also ran’ places in our MSM – except for one ‘finding’. More on that below. And lo and behold: Frosty has been ‘in the job’ only since Monday but has already kicked the hornet’s nest that is Brussels. Who says there’s only gloom and doom around …
So – “The Budget”. Disclaimer: I’ve not watched the Sunak performance. Life’s too short and it’s far more enjoyable to note the various MSM commentators trying to find a balance between howls of pain, criticism and general acceptance. So far, there’s mostly a grudging acceptance, especially since some covid measures will be extended until the end of September. While the usual ‘scare and blame’ words are used in the headlines, like ‘tax grab’ and ‘tax raid’, the criticism is muted so far, probably because of the budgetary support for small businesses and jobs.
“We” will never have had it so bad since the 1960s, we’re told. “The figures are frightening” writes the DM (link). However, the public sector spending has been slashed, to the tune of £4bn, starting from next year. That’s in addition to the £10bn already on the books. Only the NHS will be exempt – what a surprise! – and, oh wonder, so will the defence and the schools budget.
Expect more ‘Toree Austeritee’ wails from Labour then who must be glad they didn’t have to prepare this ‘pandemic recovery budget’. This means of course that local council taxes will rise, thus allowing all those Labour-run councils to grab what they can in order to counter that horrible ‘austeritee’. Good luck with that in the coming local elections.
The Times’ editorial points out that there’s sufficient encouragement for growth in this budget, writing that Sunak’s measures were:
“[…] designed to encourage investment and address Britain’s woeful productivity record that were the most important part of his speech. These included an eye-catching 130 per cent “super-deduction” for capital spending that should turbo-charge investment. There was also the creation of a new national infrastructure bank to facilitate investment in the clean energy transition. Increased spending on training and skills is furthermore welcome.” (link, paywalled)
You’ll have noticed with horror that sop to the green blob. Why the Gretaists, the Carries and BJs and their friends still cannot grasp that ‘saving the planet’ is only possible when one’s rich and that their ever so noble measures will impoverish everybody – well, what can we expect from the economically illiterate, the ones who ‘follow the science’ right into the abyss, as the whole lockdown saga has shown!
There are other ‘green shoots’ not related to green blobbery though. These are the signs of economic improvement, not least hopefully fuelled by this covid recovery budget. Even though unemployment is predicted to rise, it’ll peak at the end of this year at 6.5% rather than the predicted 11%. It’s always less painful to hide human misery behind plain percentages, but there’s this:
“Independent fiscal watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the economy will return to its pre-Covid level by the middle of next year, six months earlier than forecast. “The rapid rollout of effective vaccines offers hope of a swifter and more sustained economic recovery,” the OBR’s economic and fiscal outlook report read.” (paywalled link)
The voices of our peacocks must of course also be heard. Thus The Times writes in their budget report:
“Despite concerns in the Treasury that there would be dissent from Tory MPs, they were largely supportive. The hawkish backbencher Mark Harper said it was a “well-judged budget” despite imposing the highest tax burden he had seen in his lifetime. There was some opposition. At a meeting with the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs last night, Sunak was told by Sir John Redwood that he should be cutting taxes, […] Labour signalled that it would support the tax rises.” (link, paywalled)
It won’t have escaped your notice that Labour is going to have to try hard to have their cake and eat it: supporting the budget while crying about ‘Toree cuts’ will be an interesting exercise in squaring the circle.
And so to the quite delicious ‘news’ about Frosty who has already ‘ruffled EU feathers’ (paywalled link) or even ‘angered Brussels’ (link, paywalled) by ‘sparking a fresh row’ (paywalled link) – within a day of starting his new job. This relates to the announcement by BJ that the UK is unilaterally extending the ‘grace period’ allowing supermarkets and food importers from the UK to get to grips with the EU bureaucracy caused by the despicable NI protocol, You may remember that the former minister responsible for all that jazz was a certain Mr Gove who caved in to the EU Commissioner, a certain Mr Sefcovic. So now Brussels is fuming:
“EU diplomatic sources described the move as a “serious provocation” while Maros Sefcovic, the European Commission vice-president, said it amounted to a “violation” of the protocol. “This is the second time that the UK government is set to breach international law,” he said. “It also constitutes a clear departure from the constructive approach that has prevailed up until now, thereby undermining both the work of the joint committee and the mutual trust necessary for solution-oriented co-operation.” (link, paywalled)
There it is yet again: caving in to EU diktats is ‘constructive’, doing what is right for our citizens is ‘seriously provocative’. I confess I found this snippet highly amusing:
“It is understood Frost only told Sefcovic, his EU counterpart, of the move on Tuesday before a scheduled call yesterday. One Whitehall source said it was a sign of the “tougher” approach that Frost wanted to take with the EU.” (link, paywalled)
Here’s a sweet coincidence: our friends at facts4eu published a report on March 1st, asking BJ if it’s not time to show the EU some ‘tough love’ (link). Read the whole thing – there are some good points made regarding the NI Protocol. I wonder if Frosty saw this report … ! Meanwhile Brussels is issuing the customary threats, e.g. “retaliation through enforcement measures in the Withdrawal Agreement and trade deal in response.” (paywalled link). Brussels ‘diplomats’ were out in force, feeding their outrage to the Brussels correspondents. Here’s one of them, with a Whitehall rebuttal attached:
“Frost is acting as we expected. Under the agreement, a grace period can only be agreed by both sides. If it’s not, it’s not a grace period but a violation of the treaty.” Whitehall sources denied it was a breach of the protocol, adding that the measures were necessary to avoid a “cliff edge” for businesses. […] “At the moment, unfortunately, we are not seeing from the EU the pragmatism required to make the protocol work for the citizens of Northern Ireland,” a Government source said.” (paywalled link)
The DT’s Remain Brussels correspondent yesterday wrote an accompanying piece on Frost upsetting Brussels, recapitulating what happened during those Trade negotiations which some of us haven’t quite forgotten, covid or not:
“[Frost] adopted an uncompromising strategy that prioritised UK sovereignty over all else, in an ultimately successful tilt to knock Brussels off its stride and reset the relationship.[…] This was no easy task, especially when negotiating with a much larger bloc that is confident its superior heft makes it inevitable that it will win concessions. It requires tenacity and patience to convince the immovable object of the EU to reconsider and move closer to the British position.” (paywalled link)
This was clearly written with clenched teeth. I did enjoy the last sentences in this piece which point to interesting weeks and months ahead:
“Lord Frost has now plucked the same page out of his negotiating playbook to try and shake Brussels out of its complacency over the Northern Ireland Protocol. It is a calculated gamble but one that will inevitably redraw the dynamics of the UK-EU negotiations; for better or worse.” (paywalled link)
Just so – and one cannot help but wonder if Brussels and the EU were actually expecting a less Frosty and more gove-ish approach. Tough, innit, especially as M Sefcovic is certainly no Barnier! How Brussels expects their bone-headed attitude to prevail given the looming difficulties in their member states thanks to covid, lockdowns and a disastrous vaccination strategy – well, we’ll have to wait and see.
I leave you with this amazing covid finding, reported in the Times. The WHO, we’re told, has found that our ‘dire covid death rate’ was partly due to obesity:
“Analysis shows a “dramatic” increase in death rates once more than half a country’s population is overweight, which it says cannot be explained by age, wealth or health systems. In countries where less than half the population is overweight, the risk of death from Covid is a tenth of that in countries above this level […] In Britain 64 per cent of adults are overweight, including 28 per cent who are obese, the fourth-highest in the world. The country’s Covid death rates, at 182 deaths per 100,000, is third highest, according to data up to last month.” (link, paywalled)
Since the WHO’s director is now telling countries to do ‘more’ for their health, expect a proliferation of government-supported ‘slimming schemes’. BJ, as we all know, is fine with that. ‘Fat shaming’ will become acceptable. I’m sure that the next slogan from the covid politburo will be: ‘protect our sacred cow – lose weight now’.
No chocolate eggs at Easter for us fat peasants then … not that we’ll be able to afford them, thanks to Rishi …