Al Fresco Meals and Takeaway Pints Form Core of Johnson’s Speech

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Al fresco dining will become the norm in Britain under plans to revolutionize town centers and tackle economic inequalities after the pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will promise in a major speech this week.

The government will extend sidewalk licences to make it easier for pubs, restaurants and cafes to set up tables and serve more customers, and takeaway pints of beer will continue for another 12 months.

In his speech, confirmed by his office after Bloomberg first reported it on Friday, Johnson will vow to tackle the social divisions entrenched by the coronavirus crisis and 16 months of restrictions.

He will pledge to create a more balanced economy with good jobs in every part of the U.K., “level up” between generations, invest in infrastructure and skills, and put local needs first, Downing Street said in an emailed statement Saturday. The speech is expected at the end of the week.

Lifting Restrictions

Johnson has long promised to “level up” prosperity across the U.K.; it’s a pledge that contributed to his Conservative Party winning a big majority in the 2019 election, particularly in the traditional Labour heartlands of northern England.

He will turn the spotlight onto the economy just days before virtually all remaining Covid-19 restrictions in England are expected to be lifted on July 19 -- allowing nightclubs to reopen and events to resume without capacity limits. A final decision will be announced Monday.

Al Fresco Meals and Takeaway Pints Form Core of Johnson’s Speech

Government ministers cite the rapid vaccine rollout as a reason to end rules, with almost two-thirds of U.K. adults now double-vaccinated. But cases are rising fast: on Friday the reproduction rate of the virus in England rose to levels last seen in October.

“While talent and potential is distributed evenly across this country, opportunity is not,” a government spokesperson said. “That’s why as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s vital that we do not make the mistakes of recovery from the financial crash and seize this moment to ensure a better quality of life for people in every part of the U.K.”

Generational Inequalities

The economy is rebounding strongly this year after slumping more than 10% in 2020. The nature of the recovery, however, illustrates the scale of Johnson’s challenge to tackle inequality. The spending boom driving it is built on the savings that mainly well-to-do households amassed during lockdowns. Britain’s young and poor, meanwhile, bore the brunt of restrictions.

The Bank of England said the U.K. housing boom, fueled by tax incentives, will likely widen the gap even more, adding to the wealth of rich households while making it harder for younger generations to get on the property ladder.

With government support programs coming to an end, economists have warned young people are now in danger of permanent damage to their prospects unless they are urgently helped back to work.

A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies this month found that 19- to 24-year olds were particularly vulnerable to the winding down of furlough wage subsidies, which have saved the vast majority of jobs affected during the pandemic.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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