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ALEX BRUMMER: Boris increases self-confidence

Boris Johnson’s slow coach to Covid-19 Freedom Day on June 21 is cautious. It is seen by critics as an erosion of Britain’s hard-won vaccination advantage.

Still, it’s daring in its own way. For the first time in a year of a stop-go approach to the health and tax responses to the pandemic, consumers and businesses have more certainty about the future.

As frustrating and threatening as it may be for pubs, restaurants, gyms, exhibitions and other businesses that have been brought to the brink of collapse by lockdowns, it will end the uncertainty that is the great enemy of trust.

Boris Johnson's slow coach to Covid-19 Freedom Day on June 21 is cautious. It is seen by critics as an erosion of Britain's hard-won vaccination advantage. Still, it's daring in its own way

Boris Johnson’s slow coach to Covid-19 Freedom Day on June 21 is cautious. It is seen by critics as an erosion of Britain’s hard-won vaccination advantage. Still, it’s daring in its own way

At the end of this period, the UK should be in a better place than many of its competitors.

As an open economy, in which services make up about 72% of production, the UK is highly dependent on the prosperity of our trading partners.

It is encouraging to see many of our larger companies take advantage of the disruption caused by the pandemic and the opportunity to be outside the EU to reshape.

Aviva CEO Amanda Blanc is withdrawing from France with the sale of his offshoot to Aema Groupe for £ 2.8 billion.

As part of his strategy review at HSBC, CEO Noel Quinn from France and retail banking in the US also wants to focus on asset management in Asia.

When Unilever unveiled a new strategy earlier this month, India and China took center stage. Global ambition may not help much for smaller hospitality businesses, such as pubs, which barely survived during lockdown.

But there is no reason to believe that the Covid gravy train will be phased out in next week’s budget, given the timetable for reopening, on leave, interruptions for corporate rates and VAT and subsidies from the local authorities.

Some of the larger pub groups, notably Mitchells & Butlers and Greene King, have already found refuge in new ownership structures.

An indication that certainty does have an impact came on the stock exchange where stocks in the aviation, travel, hotel and café companies had a real zing.

Easyjet shares were up 11 percent in early trading, before giving up half of the profit, and travel companies reported a six-fold increase in bookings, albeit from low levels.

It may take longer for Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane’s “ rolled spring ” to be released, but the roadmap provides a platform. The UK’s adaptation to the accelerated digital world is remarkable.

New data from global payments company Worldpay (which started in Britain) shows that UK e-commerce has soared to £ 192 billion in 2020, placing it third in the world behind the US and China.

Covid’s e-commerce boost can be seen in public offerings from The Hut Group, Moonpig and Dr Martens, which has a large online platform. Boohoo and Asos have moved into the space abandoned by Arcadia and Debenhams.

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and the Governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, aimed to limit the scars from the start of the pandemic.

There will be major changes and re-uses on the main street. Financial hubs like Canary Wharf are set to change as HSBC, among the banks, indicates it needs less space.

Survival for business has been made more possible by Covid loan schemes, investor support for fundraising and leave.

It’s terrible that jobs for under-25s have suffered the most from Covid, but not unexpected, given that many of the first jobs are in retail and hospitality. However, the unemployment rate of 5.1 percent of the workforce is much lower than that of many of our competitors in the OECD.

In fact, the number of employees on the payroll rose by 83,000 in January, the second straight month that jobless claims fell by 20,000.

For an older cohort still in employment, average income increased 4.7 percent in the three months to December – largely due to some of the lower-paid workers who dropped out of the streak.

Most forecasters expect the unemployment rate to rise sharply if leave and other support schemes are discontinued. But even at its peak, the unemployment rate can remain below the level it was after the financial crisis.

Given previous serious warnings, this should be considered a plus. Normality for the UK can feel like a long car ride with kids in the back seat.

But it is no longer a mirage that disappears into the distance.

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