It’s been a month without Premier League football now. Somehow, we are just about managing to cope.
But picture this – Boris Johnson, having recovered from his Covid-19 symptoms, steps onto our TV screens at 5pm for the daily press conference we’ve all come to loathe and love in equal measure. He announces the one thing we’ve been waiting for more than anything.
“LOCKDOWN IS OVER”
“What fantastic, incredible news”, the country shouts in unison as we all pull our jackets on and head for the pub, the club, for the restaurants and the airport.
But lo and behold the pub has no kegs of beer and no staff to pull the pints; the club hasn’t been set up and no DJ has been booked. The restaurant hasn’t received any fresh ingredients and the airport staff are still furloughed.
And therein lies the importance of a term we will be hearing about plenty more over the coming days.
The Exit Strategy.
Whilst we have been thinking of little else but returning to our normal lives, at a single moment in time, we are simply not able to return to how things were at the flick of a switch. Complex supply chains which have been established over several years cannot simply be rebooted like a faulty WiFi router and there are also of course very serious medical implications.
Trains will once again need to run to a full timetable; flights will need to be scheduled and stock and supplies will need to be delivered to outlets of the hospitality and retail sectors.
Whilst the Government understands this, ultimately, they don’t know the ins and outs of every business. They don’t know that it takes Business X five days to import their product from Eastern Europe, and that Business Y will need at least a week to ramp up production again in the UK to stock restaurant kitchens before the rest of the country comes out of hibernation.
Beyond this, there are serious policy considerations. Perhaps the restocking effort will require a suspension of emissions charging or loading restrictions. Would a sequenced opening of bars and restaurants be bad for business, and not even be worth opening doors for given operating costs? Would unrestricted travel put the country and world at risk of a second wave of infections? Perhaps the tourism industry would push for an extra bank holiday later in the year to replace lost business under the April sun?
As the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer calls for an official exit strategy, and the EU publish their own guidelines, business too should also be plotting their own return to the frontline. In this brave new world, where no option is off the table, business’ asks should certainly be communicated to the Government and to MPs who will be returning to a virtual Parliament from next week. This will be essential to create the means for businesses to hit the ground running once the Prime Minister ushers those words we’ve all longed to hear.
Before you know it, things will be back to normal-ish and football will be back on our screens. Although, what the exit strategy means for Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes is anyone’s guess!