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Yesterday's so-called "Freedom Day” turned out to be a bit of a damp squibb

   News / 20 Jul 2021

Published: 20 July 2021

By Suzanne Evans, Director, Political Insight

Yesterday's so-called "Freedom Day” turned out to be a bit of a damp squibb as the unlocking was quickly followed by an announcement from PM Boris Johnson saying that after all over-18s have had the chance to get both Covid jabs – by the end of September - full vaccination will be required for entry into "nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather". The announcement came on the day nightclubs in England were allowed to reopen after 16 months of closure. “Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough" the PM said, before threatening to close nightclubs again if they didn’t do “the socially responsible thing.” In response, Michael Kill, boss of the Night Time Industries Association said: "So, 'freedom day' for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then…leaving aside the fact that this is yet another chaotic U-turn that will leave nightclubs who have been planning for reopening for months having to make more changes to the way they operate - this is still a bad idea.” UK Hospitality’s Kate Nicholls called the announcement "a hammer blow" for a struggling industry trying to rebuild. One major nightclub firm, Rekom UK, which owns 42 venues including chains Pryzm, Bar&Beyond, and Fiction, said clubs had become a political football and questioned whether the government “really thinks this threat will entice the 'vaccine wary' to take the vaccine? They will just stay later in the pubs and hold their parties in their houses," the group said. Mark Harper MP, who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Conservative backbenchers, also criticised the plans, saying the government was "effectively moving to compulsory vaccination." Nightclubs are still closed in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In another blow to ‘Freedom Day’ the stock-market remained unconvinced and last week’s sell-off continued apace yesterday. The FTSE 100 had moved 2.3% lower by the closing bell in London, falling back below the 7000 mark. Confidence in the UK market has dropped by 5% in July, when compared to June, a steeper fall than the 2% registered on average for regions around the globe," said Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown (HL). "The sharply rising Covid infection rates across the country, and concerns about fresh easing of restrictions, is likely to be behind the drop, which is identified in the HL monthly investor confidence survey."
Travel stocks were among the worst hit yesterday as a surprise decision regarding travel from France prompted outrage and sent airline shares plummeting. Carriers including easyJet and British Airways-owner IAG lost as much as 6% following an announcement that all travellers arriving to the UK from France must self-isolate on their return. TUI and Jet2 were down more than 3%. The stocks have all lost around 20% of their value over the last three months as new variants and ongoing travel rules and restrictions have crushed hopes for a bumper summer. They are all trading well below where they were prior to the pandemic. The UK travel industry has for months criticised the government's strict quarantine rules and last-minute changes to country classifications which has resulted in a roller-coaster of booking surges followed by mass cancellations. Yesterday’s creation of a new “amber plus” category in its traffic-light border system, with France the only country with that designation, will do nothing to build confidence. French officials said the move wasn’t based on science.
The pound also dipped by more than half a cent against the US dollar yesterday, to just below $1.37, its lowest level in five months.
Former PM David Cameron showed a "significant lack of judgement" in the way he lobbied the government on behalf of Greensill Capital, a Treasury committee report has found. It also questioned the former prime minister's judgement on the financial health of the now-collapsed lending firm. Mr Cameron lobbied for Greensill by sending texts to the chancellor and has said he acted in good faith but there were "lessons to be learnt". The Treasury committee said that while Mr Cameron did not break the rules over lobbying by former ministers, there was a "good case for strengthening them", with the current ones offering "insufficient strength".
The government plans to strip National Grid of its role keeping the lights on as part of a proposed “revolution’” in the electricity network driven by smart digital technologies, the Guardian reports. The FTSE 100 company has played a role in managing the energy system of England, Scotland and Wales for more than 30 years, but it will lose its place at the heart of the industry after government officials put forward plans to replace it with an independent “future system operator”. The new system controller would help steer the country towards its climate targets, at the lowest cost to energy bill payers, by providing impartial data and advice after an overhaul of the rules governing the energy system to make it “fit for the future”. The plans are part of a string of new proposals to help connect millions of electric cars, smart appliances and other green technologies to the energy system, which government officials believe could help to save £10bn a year by 2050 and create up to up to 10,000 jobs for electricians, data scientists and engineers.
The Court of Appeal has cleared 12 more former sub-postmasters who were wrongly convicted of offences during the Post Office Horizon scandal. It brings the total of judgements overturned to 57, but hundreds more are hoping for similar decisions.
Shares in online grocer Ocado sank more than 3% yesterday following news of a warehouse fire in one of its fulfilment centres in London. The company said the fire started when three robots that help pick its groceries collided. Around 800 staff were evacuated from the Erith site, which handles up to 150,000 orders a week and firefighters worked through the night to contain the blaze. Ocado said in a statement that the damage is "limited to a small section of less than 1% of the grid having been contained by planned fire attenuation measures." It said the fire would cause disruption to operations but that it is working to restore normal service as soon as possible. This is the second fire at an Ocado warehouse - its Andover facility burned down in 2019 due to an electrical fault.
Spire Healthcare shareholders have voted against the company's £1.4bn takeover by Australia's Ramsay Health Care, sending shares in the UK private hospital group tumbling. Spire said yesterday that total votes in favour of the deal were 69.88% at the General meeting and 72.07% at the Court Meeting, both coming in below the 75% acceptance threshold. "Accordingly, the acquisition of Spire by Ramsay has been terminated and the scheme has lapsed," the company said.
BP and Germany's EnBW have put in a joint bid for Scottish offshore wind acreage which could support wind projects with 2.9 gigawatts of capacity, the two companies said yesterday. Other firms competing include Equinor, Orsted, Royal Dutch Shell, RWE, France's TotalEnergies and Macquarie Group's Green Investment Group.
Video conferencing firm Zoom has struck a multibillion-dollar deal to buy a cloud-based call centre operator in a bet on the future of hybrid working. The firm announced the $14.7bn (£10.7bn) acquisition of Five9 in a blog post on Sunday.
Ben & Jerry's issued a statement yesterday saying it will end the sale of its ice cream in the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The statement said it was "inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory" but didn’t explain why. It will continue to sell ice cream in Israel.

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