2021This is the time of year I try to look forward to events likely to dominate the forthcoming year. That can be a bit tricky as the Coronavirus pandemic continues to wreak its unexpected effects around the world. The past year of 2020 feels almost as if someone had taken a giant eraser to the calendar, and rubbed it out.

The two topics most likely to dominate the forthcoming year are the Coronavirus Pandemic and Brexit. In both cases strong rays of hope are now starting to shine. With now two vaccines now available and more likely to follow in the near future, the world can now start to come with grips with the pandemic. However due to the vast global scale of the problem, vaccinations will not be a overnight panacea, Hopefully if they prove as effective as believed, vaccination programmes should start to make significant inroads in controlling, if not eventually defeating the virus. I would not at all be surprised if annual vaccination jabs, similar to the annual flu jab become the order f the day.

January is traditionally a time in the UK when people start thinking of the summer months ahead and planning their future holidays. That is likely to prove problematic this year as much will depend on the current state of health of any given holiday country at the time. As that is completely unpredictable at the moment, prospective future holiday makers will carefully need to follow advice given by travel gurus and still have to expect last minute disappointments. The airline industry is in chaos at the moment due to  the huge loss of customers able to travel, and will take time to recover. It is likely that ‘Staycations’ as they have become known will see a huge boost, but again they are likely to be tempered by any travel restrictions that may be in force at the time.

By the time anyone reads this article, the UK will have finally left the EU. Even the one year transition deal will have elapsed. I for one personally welcome our departure from the EU. That is not to be confused with any form of xenophobia as I have nothing against any European nation at all. What the UK is finally free of is the stifling red tape bureaucracy that the EU has become. We have heard a lot about ‘level playing fields’ during negotiations for a post-Brexit deal with the EU. It’s a phrase that seems reasonable enough on the surface, but it does seem to me its a way of stifling competitiveness, by ensuring one section of industry does not forge ahead of its rivals.

Yes there will still be initial difficulties, mainly bureaucratic as companies on both sides of the channel find they have not fully prepared for Brexit, but despite the likely disaster headlines which can be expected from newspapers playing up to their readers, it is likely such bureaucratic difficulties will soon pass.

Other issues that are likely to effect the UK in the forthcoming year are calls for Scottish Independence and the coming to power of a new US President.

Hardly a day passes now without hearing renewed calls for Scottish Independence, something that is likely to be strongly opposed by a Tory dominated Westminster. Labour has indicated they may give some ground on this issue if they are elected in the future, but I cannot help but feel this will cost them dearly.

The Scots did hold a supposedly once in a lifetime referendum on Scottish Independence in 2016, but a lifetime can be very short, even minute in the eyes of some politicians as they incessantly keep pushing for yet another. One cannot help but feel that even if another negative result was to emerge in the unlikely event of another referendum taking place, the same politicians would be immediately calling for further referendums ad-infinitum until they achieved the result they want.

When I look as a lay-man at part of the UK breaking itself off from the rest of the country, I am more than bemused at what is expected to be achieved. It’s a question that only economists can really answer, but I cannot help but wonder if the Scottish economy can actually sustain independence. Much of its heavy industry including ship building has greatly dwindled over the years. Consequently the revenue base will have shrunk with it. I accept that things always change and I understand there is now a flourishing electronics industry in Scotland. But as to whether industries like that and tourism on their own will be enough I have my doubts. I also wonder what the Scottish politicians crave to be independent from?

Various exploratory talks have taken place to see if a independent Scotland can become a member state of the EU. In a way that seems to me a way of asking if they can become subservient to the EU, a very strange request indeed. So far the EU have said no except as part of the UK. Once again it does bring into question if the EU are concerned Scotland may become a financial liability they need to continually support, especially at a time when their budgetary income from the UK as a whole has ceased.

One thing politicians seem to overlook is how ordinary people in the UK, not just Scotland, feel about independence. For nearly 300 years since the Act of Union in 1707 Scotland has been part of Great Britain. To the vast majority of British people the UK is one country and has been all their lives and that of their grandfathers and forefathers as well. Then they see politicians suddenly wanting to break the country back up into induvial fiefdoms. In other words taking parts of what they have always considered their country away from them. It does seem the only benefit of all this is to try to keeping a political party in power.

Assuming that the present incumbent US President leaves power, albeit begrudgingly on 20th January, a new President in the form of Joe Biden and his policies will come into office. There can be little doubt that whatever policies a US President and his Administration have, greatly influences world events.

UK politicians always make great play of the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and US, but while it is true such a relationship does exist, it has always seemed to me to be more import to the UK than the other way around. President Trump promised a quick US trade deal once the UK was finally free of the UK. But with only a few weeks of his Presidency left, that is highly unlikely to happen now. A lot will depend on how a US President views the UK. Many are suspicious the UK still has colonialist leanings as it once had a great colonial empire including part of the US.

I think it likely that the special relationship will continue as it is in both countries interests to do so, but I cannot help but feel the relationship will cool a little.

Only time will tell.

Coronavirus–The big flaw in self-isolation policy

CoronavirusAll of us should by now aware of the Government’s sound advice for social distancing and voluntary self-isolation, particularly for the elderly who appear to be more vulnerable and susceptible to the possible fatal consequences  of exposure to the coronavirus.

At the moment the Government is advising the elderly to self-isolate for 12 weeks, but seem to be ignoring the realities of how this particular group of the population are going to feed themselves. I understand the Government is going to write to the most vulnerable 1.5 million people in our society asking them to self-isolate, but unless that advice contains practicable and realistic advice on how to feed themselves, then at some stage many self-isolators are going to be forced to ignore it.

Supermarket home deliveries seems to be the stock answer from those passing on advice to self-isolators, but the reality for many of this group is that home delivery services have  already effectively ceased.

I am possibly more acutely aware of this problem because I happen to fall within this group. Up until now I like many others, have never needed supermarket home delivery services, and thought I would register online with the three main supermarket chains that cover my area of the West Country. What I found due to supermarkets being inundated with people trying to register for home delivery services, is one supermarket chain has completely suspended registering any new applicants to their home delivery system. The other two have no delivery dates at all for at least three weeks and neither of them give any delivery dates beyond that point. One of the supermarket chains has no Click and Collect outlets in the West Country at all, and the only one that does, requires a considerably long drive to reach. Even then they cannot fulfil any orders for at least three weeks. It may well be other areas of the country find themselves in similar positions.

Some of the elderly have no internet access at all, and although volunteer groups are springing up all over the place, it is placing a great burden and reliance on them to do other peoples shopping for them.One should not forget that many of the war and post war Baby-Boomer generation do not always have family at hand to help them, and due to the self-reliance generation they grew up in, may even find it something of an embarrassment to ask someone else for help.

So far most people have sufficient food stocks at home to last them for several weeks, but as it starts to run out, will be when this easily foreseeable problem will spring into prominence. As their food stocks dwindle, many of the most vulnerable who have no way of replenish food supplies, will be forced to break their self-isolation, even if it were to be mandatory, and risk coronavirus exposure, as they are forced to hunt around shops and supermarkets for groceries and essential sanitary products.

I did write to one age related help organisation about this asking if they had any advice on this potential problem, but so far they have not replied.

Another problem this vulnerable group may have to face is increasing their virus exposure risk, hunting around different supermarkets in the hope of finding their requirements. I am aware that the supermarket chains say there is no supply problem, but I than have to ask why on a daily basis does one still see pictures of row upon row of empty shelves? Panic buyers who descended on supermarkets like a hoard of locusts were the initial problem, but if shelves are being restocked and the amounts than can be purchased controlled, it is not unreasonable to ask why are the shelves still empty?

I must admit it is difficult to judge if the same problem exists in more urban areas, but for many in rural areas it does.

It does seem that there are now a plethora of different policies being adopted by supermarkets, and I think the Government could eventually be forced to step in to ensure they are all singing from the same hymn sheet, particularly in ensuring deliveries to those self-isolating.

It would not be unreasonable for the Government to coordinate with all supermarket chains to;

  • Ensure home deliveries as a priority to vulnerable self-isolators and essential workers.
  • Ensure that all supermarkets impose safe and sane limits on purchases.

I would think the one thing the Government would not like to see, is people in self-isolation being forced to break their isolation in a attempt to stop themselves starving to death.

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