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Opinion

Why England’s announcement of no new restrictions will have a huge impact on Wales – and widen a political rift

27 Dec 2021 4 minute read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left) in yesterday’s speech broadcast on BBC One. Mark Drakeford (right), picture by the Welsh Government.

Ifan Morgan Jones

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s announcement that there will be no new Covid restrictions in England this side of the New Year will have a big impact on Wales, too.

Even though health is devolved, ultimately it is the UK Treasury that hand out the cash to pay for those health measures. And restrictions are expensive because you need to compensate those businesses impacted by them to mitigate against huge economic harm.

England’s decision not to impose restrictions means that the UK Treasury likely won’t be releasing any extra funding. That in turn, will mean Wales won’t be able to afford to impose further restrictions, either.

The Welsh Government are probably now already out of pocket after announcing over £100m for businesses and sports teams last week, in order to soften the blow of restrictions on hospitality and large outdoor events.

England won’t be following suit any time soon, and that will also no doubt lead to more political friction with the governments of Wales and Scotland.

All four parts of the UK will have seen the same scientific Covid advice. Johnson met with his top advisors this morning. But it is probably the advice he was getting from his backbenchers – i.e. that they’d rather be shot of him than accept new restrictions – that held the greatest sway.

Ultimately the balance between freedoms and restrictions – between allowing some to die so that others have greater freedom in their lives – is a political and philosophical question, not a scientific one.

And this is how the pandemic was always likely to end up. Even if the danger from Covid remained roughly constant, people’s readiness to put their lives on hold for it was never going to be.

And at Westminster at least one senses that there just isn’t the political will for the sort of restrictions seen previously to continue, even on seasonal cycles.

Autonomy

But that choice opens up a fundamental political rift with Wales and Scotland that goes beyond political point-scoring.

So far there have been differences between the nations on the scope of restrictions, but on the need for restrictions, they have been broadly united. The decision today – unless there is a quick U-turn in the new year – changes that.

Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon believe that deeper restrictions are still needed to save lives. Boris Johnson does not, or at least less than he cares about his popularity with his own mutinous backbenchers.

Much now depends on whether Omicron is as bad as feared or as ‘mild’ as hoped. We could get lucky and the pre-emptive restrictions in Wales and Scotland may turn out not to have been needed.

But from a Welsh perspective, it seems destined to drive a further wedge between Whitehall and the administration of Mark Drakeford if he has to spend his last few years as First Minister overseeing a public health calamity while not being able to do much about it.

One long term political impact is that it will no doubt focus minds in Wales, and Welsh Labour in particular, on the fact that without financial autonomy there is no real political autonomy.

At the moment it feels as if the UK is tied to a rack and all the big political questions of the day – Brexit, the pandemic, and others – are slowly cranking up the pressure to pull the nation-state apart.

This pandemic has some time left to run. If Omicron and subsequent variants are as serious as the worst that can be feared and a politically paralysed Boris Johnson does now allow the ‘bodies to pile high’, that strain could increase again to the point where something snaps.


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Jack
Jack
11 months ago

Good article.
Another way it has an impact on Wales is the very real consequences on the border. A night out clubbing in Cardiff for NYE might be off the cards, but Bristol will be open for business, potentially being a superspreader event.

hdavies15
hdavies15
11 months ago
Reply to  Jack

certainly a superspreader, but maybe that’s what they want. The “popular” theory among some commenters is that Omicron is easier to transmit, not as corrosive when caught ( unless you are part of a vulnerable group) and on that basis alone they expect it to help build up the latent immunity that seems so lacking at present. The advice, as opposed to regulation, boils down to take care of yourself and stay out of bug infested places if at risk. All very logical until loads of party goers go home and next day pass the bug onto their vulnerable neighbours,… Read more »

G A Williams
G A Williams
11 months ago

Incisive analysis. This is ‘Nation Cymru’ at its very best. Llongyfarchiadau!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 months ago

I’m sure there is a law against a government actively involved in encouraging the bodies to be piled high…

Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
Jonathan Gwyn Mendus Edwards
11 months ago

At last, Nation.Cymru gets it. We have a choice. I did not dedicate my life to Wales to fight for the right to lock down more pubs than England. That was 1881, not now. Don’t get me going on sugary drinks. Wales needs its own economy, taxation, laws, and leaders who will fight for these things. Our economy is crap, which leads to so much else, dependence. We need to fix this.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
11 months ago

It’s be basically hop to England’s tune even though Wales & Scotland are following their respective scientific data & advice to limit the spread of Omicron, where damaged goods Boris Johnson is pandering to the English extremist far-right ERG to ensure England can have a pandemic party which will result in an explosion of Omicron in the New Year. When Wales went into lockdown during the first wave of Covid for two weeks, the Welsh Government requested Whitehall assistance to protect Welsh economy but the Tories refused.. And when England went into a 4 week lockdown later that month, the… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Y Cymro
Linda
Linda
11 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Absolutely rubbish
Scientific evidence ??? When he spoke of taking extra measures we had 8 cases ??? When he took it we had 58 cases ? What the hell .people like you are the reason we have the likes of him Dictating to businesses and people of wales .Absolutely disgusting .All about money .extra money from Westminster .
Hope they make them pay back

Richard
Richard
11 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Linda – business is important indeed vital to all of us and you rightly raise this in your strident points. The monies are NOT Westminsters as you say or Cardiff Bays but ours as tax payers. Unlike business neither legislature make money 💴 . Business plans and invests to serve its chosen market / this is what the nhs in Wales is trying to do with new Covid 🦠… They like business have to plan and they are dammed if they do and damed if they dont. The 12000 extra over the two days of christmas and thousands of dealths… Read more »

Last edited 11 months ago by Richard
Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
11 months ago

“without financial autonomy there is no real political autonomy”….the case for welsh independence in a nutshell

Last edited 11 months ago by Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
11 months ago

Er think youve been induldging in the ‘christmas spirits’ a bit too much 😉 PS. Trust me Liz Saville -Roberts doesnt need any ‘favours’ from journalists. And unlike the current occupant of 10 downing street she doesnt participate in plots to physically attack journalists either https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/jul/14/black-eyes-boris-johnson-plot-attack-reporter-darius-guppy

Kerry Davies
Kerry Davies
11 months ago

Only 3 clubs in the Premier League have yet to postpone matches due to Covid and on Boxing Day they registered another 103 players testing positive. England is not officially under restrictions, it is just acting as if. Today will show more as France has introduced restrictions including no food and drink on trains like Eurostar. The long term excess mortality in Wales was made up of 82.9% from Covid but in England was 84% so which stats you are using would be interesting to learn. Deaths per 100 diagnosed cases also show England losing more to Covid over the… Read more »

Grayham Jones
11 months ago

We in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh kick all English party’s out of wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
11 months ago

The Tories certainly are consistent – wealth before health.
Businesses can be resurrected, people cannot!

Linda
Linda
11 months ago
Reply to  Ed Jones

You must be joking ! Have you seen the devastation Drakeford has done to wales ? Businesses .you are a joke .All they are doing is riding around on the gravy train .

Richard
Richard
11 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Suggest you put your name forward for any of the several fringe political parties who seem to reflect your obvious anger at our nations parliament.

We need all
sections represented in a democratic Wales…….not just the 70 per cent who support a vibrant new programme.

im sure your evangelic ardur will lift these parties combined support from its low showing in recent elections through a costed business programme…..

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
11 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Fair play, with such beautiful grammar and judicious use of both powerful reasoning and pithy arguments you have destroyed me, I feel so ashamed now. However, I know in my heart that, over time, I will eventually become a paragon of reason just like you. Thank you Linda. I wish for you a safe and prosperous 2022.

j humphrys
j humphrys
11 months ago

Very bad for the vulnerable, very bad for Cymru. Strive for independence!

Linda
Linda
11 months ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Ridiculous .They have been running back and forth with the begging bowl please sir can i have some more money ? INDEPENDEnce ??? What a flippin joke .

Announced this morning wales is in debt of Billions ? .
What a joke you lot are .

Richard
Richard
11 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Who is Walea in debt to ? Lets have some real facts and you may be onto a good start for a great political future…

Quornby
Quornby
11 months ago

What a time for Downing Street to be occupied by a blithering idiot.

Linda
Linda
11 months ago
Reply to  Quornby

Could be worse it could be you !

Richard
Richard
11 months ago
Reply to  Linda

Great stuff Linda – keep this up 👍🏼

Mochyn 69
Mochyn 69
11 months ago

Excellent article from Ifan Morgan Jones

It needs to be syndicated, get it out to the world and especially tell it to the BBC and have done with their Booster Boris Crap

Their permanent pro-union, anti ‘devolved administrations’ tone is insidious

.

Quornby
Quornby
11 months ago

Johnson will close down as soon as he can say that he “saved” the new year. Sadly many will buy into his b*****cks.

G. Evans
G. Evans
11 months ago

I don’t know how dangerous the Omicron strain is. But I prefer to listen to scientific opinion than to elected politicians, especially Tory politicians. It is inevitably true that any restrictions will have an economic impact but the carpet-chewing arm of the Tory party are concerned about the economy, only insofar as it affects them personally. This is how you get to prominence, people like Andrew Bridgen, the tail wagging the dog, you might say, which demonstrates how weak Johnson is because anyone with leadership qualities would swat away him and all the other Bone-heads like the irritating flies they… Read more »

George
George
11 months ago

In terms of covid patients admitted to hospital, England recorded 2,370 on the 29/12/21. England recorded 2,298 on the 26/12/20 and 2,572 on 27/12/20. (It seems unlikely that England records 22 days of 3,000 plus admissions or reaches peak of 4,000 as they did last winter.) In terms of people staying in hospital most recent UK figures for 2021 are most similar to 30/10/20 and those in in mechanical ventilation beds most similar to 26/10/20. Figures for England show numbers similar to 11/11/20 for former and 28/10/20 for latter. It’s perhaps interesting to note that SAGE had called for circuit… Read more »

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