Johnson and Macron back renewed effort to strike UK-EU trade deal

Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron on Thursday agreed to step up efforts to secure a UK-EU trade deal, amid signs Britain could be open to a compromise which would see the country face tariffs if it undercut European regulations.

The British prime minister and the French president discussed the trade talks between the UK and the EU on the margins of events in London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s BBC radio appeal to France to resist the Nazi occupation.

As Mr Johnson and Mr Macron met in 10 Downing Street, the British prime minister’s allies let it be known he was willing to consider a new approach to help unlock weeks of stalemate in the talks when intensified negotiations on a future UK-EU relationship begin on June 29.

Read More

The British must learn from coronavirus mistakes

For the UK, Covid-19 has been a “teachable moment”. We have learnt that our political leaders are incompetent, our bureaucracy ineffective and our economy fragile. This is not true in all respects: the Treasury and Bank of England have performed rather well. But it is true enough not to be funny.

The UK has the world’s second highest cumulative death rate from Covid-19 per million. The response has been confused, the lockdown came too late and the programme for testing, tracking and tracing still appears a mess. The country is opening up in the hope that it can control the virus, this time. We shall see.

The latest economic forecasts from the OECD are only a little less sobering. Even in its “single hit” scenario, which assumes no further waves of the pandemic, the UK economy would shrink 11.5 per cent this year. With a destructive second wave, the

Read More

Scotland takes cautious line on virus lockdown easing

Scottish non-essential street-front shops, outdoor markets and some indoor workplaces will be allowed to reopen later this month under cautious lockdown-easing plans unveiled on Thursday by first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon has taken a markedly more tentative approach to easing restrictions intended to curb the spread of coronavirus than UK government ministers have for England, where shops with distancing measures in place have already been allowed to open.

Pressure on the Scottish National party to go faster has grown amid increasing concern about Scotland’s economy, which suffered an estimated 23 per cent combined decline in gross domestic product in April and March.

Adam Tomkins, Scottish Conservative shadow secretary for strategy, said the moves were “terrible news” for the hospitality sector and only mixed for retail. “Too little. Too late. Too slow. No ambition from Sturgeon at all,” he tweeted.

However, experts including Devi Sridhar, professor of global public

Read More

English shoppers’ return points to a gradual retail recovery

The consumer response to the reopening of shops across England at the start of the week points to a gradual recovery in a sector that is vital for any economic revival.

Spending and footfall remained well below pre-lockdown levels, according to an FT analysis of unofficial data covering the first three days of the reopening of non-essential stores in England, raising concerns about job losses in retail, where more workers are furloughed than any other sector.

A rebound in the retail sector is essential for the economy. It accounts for about 5 per cent of UK output and 9 per cent of jobs. The reopening of non-essential shops was “much needed to provide further support to the economy,” said Fabrice Montagné, an economist at Barclays.

But the initial analysis appears to bear out the warnings by analysts on Monday that pent-up demand — after almost 12 weeks of lockdown —

Read More