Trade

Former UK chancellor pushes to reopen economy

LONDON — The U.K. should start reopening its economy now and assume the coronavirus will continue to circulate in the country for quite some time, former U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond said Monday.

Speaking on a webinar organized by the think tank Chatham House, Hammond said the U.K. should get ready for new business models, the failure of some firms, the loss of jobs, and changes to government priorities — warning it might reduce emphasis on tackling climate change.

“Weve got to start reopening the economy and I think the sensible compromise is to reopen it around a set of conditions which assume that, for the time being, we are coexisting with this virus rather than conquering it,” he said.

Public and private signals from the U.K. government suggest it intends to pursue a more cautious approach, with significant concern among political and scientific advisers about a second peak in infections causing more damage, both to public health and to the economy.

Hammond said the government should look two or three weeks ahead, and start engaging with businesses on how the economy will be reopened, even though some restrictions will have to continue for some time. “It is vital that business is ready for the green light” when the government decides to give it, he said.

The former chancellor warned the British economy will be “different” after this crisis. International trade will also be “hugely challenged” by the immediate consequences of the virus, he added, warning that the U.K. should be “very careful” not to walk into heightened protectionism and “new explosive tensions around trade, state aid and unfair competition issues.”

Hammond, a vocal supporter of a close relationship with the EU after Brexit, said both British and European economies have taken a “significant shock” from the coronavirus and that — in reference to the end of the Brexit transition period — it “would be unwise to Read More – Source
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