Written by Eleanor Davis
Let us cast back to New Years Eve 2019. High hopes for a brand new decade, a fresh start, a time of new beginnings. Well, we certainly got more than anyone could have bargained for. 2020 will long be known as one of the most turbulent years in both British and world history. A time dominated by the intense cacophony of the Covid-19 crisis and Brexit. The question is, however, will these events continue to dominate the news in 2021?
The biggest news in 2020 was the Covid-19 crisis. Undoubtedly. With 1.77 million people dead worldwide, 71,000 of them British, it is clear that Covid-19 will not decide to expire at the end of 2020. In fact, with cases rising, the beginning of 2021 will be the ultimate test of competency for Boris Johnson and his government. Following a plethora of failings in 2020, most notably: Dominic Cummings and his eye test at Barnard Castle, the track and trace app that for months neither tracked nor traced, the scotch egg is a substantial meal saga and the thousands of preventable deaths in care homes and hospitals that could have been avoided with a competent testing system. One would hope that both Matt Hancock and Boris Johnson will have learnt from their slow decision making in 2020, and instead be determined as leaders to control and manage the virus in Britain. With the Pfzizer/BioTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines on the horizon, its rollout will be under immense scrutiny, particularly if the vaccination process is too slow in protecting the vulnerable.
Something that we can hope for in 2021 is the eradication of repeated lockdowns and a tier system that actually works and is successful. Not being able to meet friends and family has been harrowing. To avoid disastrous consequences such as increased suicide rates and increased mental health issues caused by loneliness, the government will have to take the silent pandemic of young people’s mental health into serious consideration. In terms of meeting friends properly again and going to the pub, I think it is fair to predict that this will be strongly affected by the continuation of the tier system which will last way into spring until the vaccination programme is rolled out effectively and people are safe. One notable success of the government in 2020 is Rishi Sunak’s Furlough scheme, which has been extended until April. The job crisis and mass unemployment caused by Covid-19 will become a key issue once again in 2021. Hopefully the government is readily prepared for this and we can avoid mass austerity and economic depression (one can dream).
Let us now address the elephant in the room. Brexit. The event that has been in the background of the nation’s mind since the referendum in June 2016. It has now, thanks to Boris, been sorted and is done with! Well… nearly. A Brexit deal was approved by the European Union on Christmas Eve (a festive gift for the nation) and such deal will come into fruition on January 1st. Without going too much into the gory details of the deal itself, some things that will concern younger adults and industry will begin to happen in 2021. The most notable subject being no tariffs on exports to the EU – Johnson dubbed this a “Canada plus” arrangement and his government is very happy with this outcome. However, Clement Beaune, the French Europe minister argued that “no country in the world will be subject to as many export rules in the UK”. We will just have to see the outcome of this and hope it does not cause too much trouble for British businesses (emphasis on hope).
The UK will also leave the Erasmus scheme after the transition period, and UK students will not be able to use the scheme to travel to European universities on exchange programmes. Johnson announced however that the Erasmus Scheme will be replaced with its own global scheme named after Alan Turing and it has been said that the scheme will fund around 35,000 students to go on placements and exchanges globally from September 2021. The scheme is said to deliver greater value for money from taxpayers after confusion over the disproportionate expense the Erasmus scheme cost for the UK treasury compared to other EU countries. Although Johnson had previously promised that there would be “no threat to the Erasmus scheme”, his replacement will be heavily scrutinised, with hopes it does not prevent opportunities for students in Britain and the EU.
It is more than clear that 2020 has been rubbish. The government have been largely unsuccessful in managing the coronavirus outbreak, and the months-long deadlock of the Brexit deal created a stagnant, unforgettable nightmare. Therefore it is clear, Johnson’s government must use 2020 as a lesson. A lesson in efficient management, clear decision making and being ballsy in their decision-making process.