The UK rolled into the new decade fresh from a General Election and unaware of the crisis it would find itself, and the world, engulfed in only a few months later. In the last 12 weeks the country has changed, socially, economically and politically. As we enter an era of unchartered waters and uncertain futures, we look at what changes we have seen so far and what further changes we can expect from the ongoing Coronavirus crisis…
The UK has well and truly put its trust in tech. Having embraced it into every aspect of our lives whether it be socialising, working or consuming, our dependence has increased further. Silicon Valley is rejoicing as the British public demands faster internet, 5G, and more connectivity while worries of data protection and privacy have seemingly been left far behind.
Zooming towards remote working
Increasingly popular in recent years, working from home, or now simply WFH, has become the new normal for millions. With the help of platforms like Zoom, working from home looks set to stay in some form, with social media giant Twitter even telling its employees they can work from home ‘forever’.
Unprecedented government intervention
Paying a quarter of the entire workforce’s salaries, and effectively nationalising the railways are not policy measures you would expect to hear in the same sentence as the Conservative Party, but desperate times call for desperate measures. The Chancellor has had to scramble to put in place unprecedented levels of support for the UK’s beleaguered economy. The intervention will not stop here either, as the economic impacts begin to hit, the Treasury will be braced to provide further bailouts and rescue packages. The question is, who will foot the bill?
Covid, the climate change catalyst
With toxic air having fallen by up to 50% in some areas of London and quiet roads becoming the norm, the country looks set to have even more of an appetite for cleaner air and a greener future. For climate change campaigners the silver lining of the terrible coronavirus cloud has been the unexpected push to make significant and lasting changes in the government’s approach to the issue. They hope to see the Government capitalise on the collapse in demand of the airline industry by attaching ‘green strings’ to rescue packages, and measures like a £2bn fund for cycling.
Cracks appearing in a divided nation
As the UK begins to emerge from two months of lockdown and assess the devastating human impact and economic damage, there are signs the once unified country is becoming increasingly split over the Government’s handling of the crisis. Gone are the days of an ineffective opposition. In its place is a rejuvenated Labour Party, slumping government approval ratings and a divided public and media. Avoiding making the handling of the crisis as divisive and partisan as Brexit will be crucial for the Prime Minister, who is facing now criticism from all sides, including his own backbenches.
The Disunited Kingdom
The Covid crisis has pushed the relationship between the United Kingdom’s four regions to new levels of tension. In Scotland Nicola Sturgeon is poised to make another push for independence, whilst Arlene Foster and an uncharacteristically vocal Mark Drakeford have laid out their own recovery roadmaps, for Northern Ireland and Wales respectively, after disregarding the Prime Minister’s “Stay Alert” slogan.
A new world order
The uncoordinated response to Coronavirus, a faltering economy, and unpredictable leadership have done no favours for the United States’ global standing. However, China’s mishandling of the crisis has also been marred with misreporting, cover-ups and fraying relations with Western countries. Closer to home the European Union hopes it will be able to show integration and interdependence as key to recovery, but must first try to find consensus for a long term plan to rebuild its disproportionately affected economies.