Boris Johnson’s claim about the UK being ‘world beating’ during the pandemic has come back to haunt him as the UK economy contracted into a ‘record-breaking’ recession.
Many took to Twitter to express their frustrations over news the UK’s economy shrunk by 20.4% between April and June – the largest drop of any major global economy tackling the pandemic.
In fact, experts have warned Britain could face a ‘long road ahead’ as stimulous from the chancellor’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme and other initiatives peter out over the coming months.
GDP is also expected to be 5% below its pre-Covid peak at the end of this year, they warned.
Melissa Davies, chief economist at Redburn, said the UK faced having to ‘claw back its pandemic losses, all the while facing deflationary headwinds from large amounts of spare capacity and job losses.’
Samuel Tombs at Pantheon Macroeconomics blamed the government’s slow response to Covid-19 for the depth of the UK’s second-quarter contraction.
‘The long duration of the lockdown in the second quarter, due to the government’s slow response to Covid-19 in March, followed by its failure to prevent the virus from spreading from hospitals, was at the root of the economy’s under-performance in the second quarter,’ he explained.
He warned that any economic bounce-back would peter out as students returned to school and further lockdown are announced.
He said: ‘The planned reopening of schools next month… probably will have to be accompanied by a renewed curtailment of economic activity in the services sector.
‘Accordingly, we continue to expect GDP to be about 5% below its pre-Covid peak at the end of this year.’
The news comes as a new study showed that Westminster’s ‘tardy’ lockdown meant that the coronavirus infection rate for London in April was as high as Stockholm in Sweden where the government there was pursuing a ‘herd immunity’ strategy.
What should have been a sombre moment in modern political history in Britain turned into a bit of joke-fest.
A tweet by shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds showing a graph of the UK as the worst-hit nation in Europe in economic terms triggered the free-for-all and inspired a Twitter trend dubbed ‘world beating’.
‘We’ve already got the worst excess death rate in Europe. Now we’re on course for the worst recession too,’ Dodds said.
Kev-Prince Kombi replied: ‘Well at least Boris can say it’s a ‘world beating recession’.’
Kev Mullins wrote: ‘If we’re World Beating now, just think how amazing we might be after #Brexit, especially a #nodealbrexit! Can’t wait! (Grimacing face emoji).’
In a response to an article by The New Statesman that the UK had achieved the largest recession of any G7 country as well as the highest excess death rate in Europe, one person said: ‘Indisputably world-beating though.’
‘At last, something we’re world-beating at,’ quipped another.
LBC radio presenter James O’Brien also weighed into the discussion. ‘I see the people who presided over the highest excess death rate in Europe, claimed to have put a ‘protective ring’ around care homes & promised a ‘world-beating’ app by last June are demanding that we trust them again,’ he noted.
June’s 8.7% bounce-back in gross domestic product (GDP) means the economy is set to emerge from its record-breaking recession in the third quarter, but the sheer size of the contraction means it has further to crawl back.
In an interview with Sky News, chancellor Sunak said the UK economy was getting back to a ‘new normal’ as lockdown restrictions ease.
He said: ‘It’s not a sustainable situation to have vast swathes of our economy essentially shut down.
‘And that’s why we have been able to successfully reopen bits, and do it in a safe way.
‘And as people get back to going shopping, or going out for a meal, or indeed getting back to their office, they will see that it’s a new normal, it’s a safe normal.’