In his televised address to the nation last Tuesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the authorities are ready for the extremities to avoid a second nationwide quarantine. And speaking earlier in the House of Commons, he announced the introduction of new restrictive measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Among those are the mandatory wearing of face coverings on public transport and taxis. Bars and restaurants will be closed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m., and customer service will only be allowed at the table, not at the bar which is so popular among the Britons. It is now prohibited to gather in groups of more than 15, even at weddings. No more than 30 people are allowed to attend funeral ceremonies, and the stadiums are not going to open in October at all. The doubled penalty for not wearing masks will amount to £200 (some 20 thousand rubles), with the largest fines for violating the self-isolation regime will be £10 thousand (nearly 1 million rubles).
At the same time, Boris Johnson considers the COVID-19 second wave "absolutely inevitable" in the country. British experts have already warned that without decisive action, the current daily figure of 3.5-4 thousand infected people will grow to 50 thousand over a month. By the way, according to the American Johns Hopkins Institute, as of September 23, the total number of recorded coronavirus infection cases in the United Kingdom has exceeded 400 thousand people (406.058), with the number of deaths reaching 41,951.
The day before, be it noted, British Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove appeared on the Sky News channel to recommend that his compatriots go out less often and work in the remote mode, if their occupation allows. In a word, the British are caged up at home because of the coronavirus.
However, the Albion's problems do not end here. Let's not forget that Britain still cannot agree with the EU on their ultimate "divorce" (Brexit). Negotiations between London and Brussels on the issue have come to a standstill with no way out yet. The European Union urges the British government to pick a side on the trade agreement with the continent. A new round of talks began this week, but there are no breakthroughs expected by any side, as they admit themselves. Britain's draft law on customs violates the existing agreement with the EU, making Brussels call the situation unacceptable. By the way, many British politicians, including the country's five former Prime Ministers, are also opposed to the law. Boris Johnson says this document is a mere safety net in case of a very likely failure of negotiations with Brussels, which were challenging even before the bill appeared.
Let us recall that on September 15, the House of Commons of the British Parliament adopted the Internal Market bill, which enables the UK to violate provisions of last year's Brexit agreement with the European Union. During the vote, the initiative was supported by 340 deputies against 263 parliamentarians. This law touches upon trade between the regions of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) after January 1, 2021 – transition period expiry date.
Notably, this issue has been the main stumbling block between London and Brussels over nearly three years of negotiating the Brexit agreement. And now, by passing this law, the British government has actually wiped all the previous agreements with Brussels on the issue. Prime Minister Johnson, attempting to negotiate the best possible terms for a trade deal with the European Union, has not only infuriated the Brussels bureaucrats, but also gambled with the reputation of the United Kingdom.
Until recently, it seemed entirely unacceptable for both sides to allow a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This would run counter to the Belfast Agreement or the Good Friday Agreement, which defused the conflict in Northern Ireland after decades of terrorist attacks and clashes. The agreement was signed in 1998, when the United States and the European Union mediated the negotiations. It is no accident that Democratic Party's candidate for President of the United States Joe Biden has recently issued an ultimatum to Boris Johnson, saying that the Congress will not approve trade preferences for the UK if it violates its previous obligations to the European Union.
In turn, the European Parliament demanded that London change the bill on internal markets by the end of September. Otherwise, it won't ratify any agreement between the EU and the UK under any circumstances. In other words, Brussels has demonstrated readiness to leave the negotiating table and break off relations with London without a trade deal. It should be noted that Britain is also ready for such a result and shows no readiness for any compromises in the course of negotiations on future relations with the European Union.
The UK is eager to entirely divorce the Union, without leaving any hint of its membership in the EU on the one hand, and to keep its trade advantages as a EU member on the other. As Boris Johnson has repeatedly stressed himself, he would be happy to conclude a free trade agreement similar to what the European Union has with Canada. Brussels points to the difference in the number of trade contacts with Canada and the UK, which has not even left the Commonwealth yet. It is worth noting that if the United Kingdom divorces the EU without a deal, it will undoubtedly damage its international reputation as a reliable partner in any global negotiation process. This is something that London should bear in mind.