ALEX BRUMMER: How Boris Johnson’s big gamble to reopen the economy after Covid lockdowns has paid off
Back in July, Boris Johnson warned emphatically that if the British economy were not at last opened up after so many successive Covid lockdowns, we would ‘risk even tougher conditions’ in the colder months ahead.
These forthright claims were condemned by Labour, whose leader Sir Keir Starmer slammed them as a ‘reckless free-for-all’.
The Government’s ever-gloomy scientific advisers also insisted the great reopening was too much, too soon.
Today, four months on, the Prime Minister has been vindicated. His supposed rashness in the face of the pandemic looks to be paying off handsomely.
In July, Boris Johnson (pictured) warned if the British economy were not opened up after the Covid lockdowns, we would ‘risk even tougher conditions’. Today, he has been vindicated
But where our economy is roaring back to life thanks to the speed with which Britain managed to vaccinate adults – particularly using the long-lasting AstraZeneca jab that some EU countries so foolishly spurned – other European nations, especially Germany, are faltering.
Yes, even the recovery here has been uneven amid scare stories of fuel shortages, empty supermarket shelves and a shortage of labour such as lorry drivers and abattoir workers.
But, freed from the dead hand of Brussels bureaucracy, Britain’s agile and dynamic economy has crackled into life again.
But Germany’s economy, still the largest in Europe, is stagnating – and for the first time in decades, inflation is rising.
Any ability to control prices, of course, rests with the EU – so Angela Merkel (Chancellor for a few more days until her successor Olaf Scholz is sworn in) finds herself unable to act unilaterally.
Here in Britain, the CBI reports that demand for domestic goods is so strong, manufacturers can’t keep up. That’s just what Boris predicted would happen in the summer when he made a bonfire of Covid restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’.
But where our economy is now roaring back to life, other European nations are faltering. Pictured: Demonstrations against Covid measures in Vienna, Austria, on November 22
In Germany, the picture could not be more different. Conditions are gloomy and the country’s economy is stagnating. Pictured: People protest Covid measures in Brussels, Belgium
In Germany, the picture could not be more different. Conditions are gloomy. One influential business survey found that morale in German industry has been falling for five consecutive months thanks to bottlenecks in supply chains – as well as a deeply concerning spike in coronavirus cases.
Yet it must be made clear: Germany’s travails are not a matter for Schadenfreude here. The country is, after all, our second-largest national trading partner after America.
However, Boris Johnson’s critics would do well to look abroad when they remember how they lambasted him for his supposedly foolhardiness back in the summer.
Of course, in a global pandemic there is always a risk that some new vaccine-resistant virus strain might emerge.
But, for now, the smooth end to furlough and healthy growth mean that Chancellor Rishi Sunak can focus wholesale on the cost-of-living crisis that is increasingly hurting some households.
And unlike our neighbours in the Eurozone, here the Bank of England has the wiggle room to stop printing money and to normalise interest rates.
Yes, Freedom Day was a risk – but now we are reaping the results. Our German neighbours, in contrast, are wondering where they went so badly wrong.