UK/India Trade: The bumpy and bureaucratic road from special to strategic

UK/India Trade: The bumpy and bureaucratic road from special to strategic

 

The relationship between the world’s oldest democracy and world’s largest democracy has always been special, and since the Conservative Party took office in 2010, the relationship has only gone from strength to strength.

Firstly, the Conservatives were quick to recognise the political and economic importance of the 1.5 million strong British Indian community and, second Brexit meant the need to think outside the box and enhance trade relationships beyond the European Union.

But both countries want to go beyond special and into the strategic, and a new partnership represents a win-win for both London and New Delhi. For the UK, it means greater access to a more lucrative Indian market, the world’s most populous single market and more British-Indian votes at home. For India, it means greater access to the fifth biggest economy in the world, and a strengthened geopolitical position within Asia.

2030 Roadmap

Last month, Prime Ministers Johnson and Modi agreed an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), and launched a 2030 Roadmap, a vision for a revitalised and dynamic UK-India connection, with the goal of elevating the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP), which could then pave the way for a UK-India Free Trade Agreement,

Trade between the UK and India is currently worth around £23 billion per year but could be doubled by 2030 if the roadmap leads to a CSP, and what has already been agreed will see 6,500 new jobs created across the UK, along with over £533m of new Indian investment in growing sectors, such as health and technology.

Making progress with India will not be easy.

Whilst the UK is the second largest investor in India, the Indian establishment is far too often sceptical of foreign investment and the free market. Back in 2007, the EU undertook trade talks with India, but suspended them in 2013, accusing India of a lack of ambition and following disagreements over tariff rules for car parts and free-movement rights for professionals.

India will almost certainly want easier visa access, and in particular for skilled professionals. The recently agreed migration and mobility partnership, creating a new scheme for the exchange of up to 3,000 young professionals each year is welcome news, but falls short and India is likely to demand more. Whilst most of my own family have no interest in leaving in India, those who wish to show little interest in moving to the UK, citing stringent visa requirements. Instead, they point to opportunities in Canada, where they say it is far easier to secure permanent residency.

Despite a growing interest from India from UK food and drink companies, including a rising market share, high tariffs and other restrictions remain, so reduced tariffs will be a key British demand. India is the third largest market for Scotch Whisky, for example but Indian tariffs are a whopping 150%!

This isn’t attributed to protectionism alone, and domestic factors come into play here. The Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies has strongly objected to any plans to slash to the Basic Customs Duty arguing that imports are already dominating the Indian market, and any reduction will squeeze Indian products out because they are subject to multiple regulatory agencies and increased compliance costs. The politics of prohibition remains an issue at state level and are popular, particularly amongst women voters – alcohol bans are currently in force in four Indian states and one union territory.

But a deal boosts India’s standing

Ultimately a deal with the UK is in India’s interests, primarily because it reduces its reliance on trade with China, with whom it has a frosty relationship with, as well as boost India’s post-pandemic economy. It also reaffirms India’s commitment to free trade, amid amplified concerns following India’s decision to opt out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes 15 Asia-Pacific nations, including Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan and South Korea.

As a proud British citizen and overseas citizen of India, as well as a frequent visitor to Delhi, I am excited about the future strategic partnership between both countries. But at the same time, I know securing further deals with them will be challenging. Negotiations with India will be different to those of Australia, New Zealand and the United States, and the road from special to strategic will be a far bumpier and bureaucratic ride.

Webinar: Roadmap 2030: Shaping UK-India trade & defining our strategic partnership

To find out more about UK/India trade, Cavendish Advocacy are delving into this further and will be hosting a webinar with Lord Syed Kamall, Pernod Ricard’s Head of International Trade Darya Galperina, and trade experts David Henig and Pallavi Bajaj on Tuesday 6 July, 11:00-12:00. 

A time for a Budget like no other

A time for a Budget like no other

 

Budget Day is usually an opportunity for the Chancellor of the day to present their vision for the future accompanied with some giveaways which may (or may not) go down well with the public. This year’s, however, struck a more sombre tone, with the Chancellor levelling with the public that despite seeing light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, we are at a critical economic juncture and must meet the scale of the challenge together.

The Chancellor’s statement involved three broad sections. First, tackling the crisis and offering further economic support for individuals and businesses in the short-term. Second, begin fixing the public finances and levelling with people around some tough choices on taxation, choices of which there is no doubt he would have had ideological concerns about. Third, appealing to backbench MPs across the country and be as forward-thinking as possible about the future of our economy.

 

Our top 5 takeaways from Budget 2021 are:

 

1) Support remains beyond June 21

It was no surprise that the Chancellor opted to extend the Government’s economic support for individuals and businesses. This includes the extra £20 per week uplift for Universal Credit for a further six months and the continuation of business rates relief until June with discounted business rates for a further nine months. The VAT cut to 5% will remain extended until the end of September with an interim rate of 12.5% for a further six months.

The Chancellor announced that a new restart grant will be introduced in April. Non-essential retail will receive up to £6,000 per premises and hospitality, leisure, personal care and gyms will receive grants of up to £18,000. This support totals £5 billion in total.

As bounce back loans come to end, the Chancellor outlined a new recovery loan scheme where businesses can apply for a loan with a Government guarantee to lenders of 80%.

Furlough also remains until the end of September, a move that will cost an extra £10 billion. Between now and June 30, the Government will pay 80% of wages for furloughed workers up to £2,500 a month. From July 1, state support will begin to taper off, going down to 70% and then 60% from August 1.

Whilst most see extending this state aid as a necessity for people’s livelihoods, others have expressed concern about differing dates, with the Prime Minister’s roadmap suggesting June 21 as the date all restrictions ease. There is no doubt that both the Prime Minister and Chancellor will face some questions about why furlough is running until the end of September.

Support for the self-employed also remains and 600,000 more self-employed people are now eligible for access to grants with tax return data for 2019-20 now being available.

Other key support includes:

  • Getting more jabs in arms: An extra £1.65 billion to be allocated to help the Government reach its target of offering a first dose to every adult by 31 July with some of this money used for a trial to see if different doses can be mixed.
  • A boost for arts, culture and sport: An extra £300 million will be added to the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. Museums and cultural bodies in England will also receive £90 million to keep going until they can open their doors and £18.m has been made available for community cultural projects. Sport will also benefit from a £300m recovery package.

2) Some tax increases, but is this just the beginning?

The Chancellor was somewhat constrained when it came to taxation policy, for the 2019 Conservative manifesto pledged no increases in VAT, inheritance tax and National Insurance. On taxation, the Budget was therefore more nuanced than speculation previously predicted.

Whilst we will not see increases to income tax, personal tax thresholds will be frozen from next year until April 2026. He reiterated that no one’s take home pay will be less, but the benefits the threshold increases offer will be removed.

His decision to increase corporation tax from 19% to 25% in April 2023 has met with some disquiet from his own backbenches. Conservative MPs, will, however, get in line as any rebel faces losing the whip and Mr Sunak can continue to point out that the UK’s rate remains competitive being the lowest in the G7.

Another sweetener to mitigate concerns is the introduction of a new Small Profits Rate, maintained at 19% for businesses with profits of £50,000 or less and a taper for those with profits between £50,000 and £250,000. This means only 10% of companies will pay the full rate.

Even many Labour MPs who normally champion corporation tax rises seemed uncomfortable at the Chancellor’s decision. Although the Shadow Chancellor, Anneliese Dodds said she could support corporation tax rises in the future, she could not now and lambasted Mr Sunak for refusing to abandon planned council tax rises in England.

And with corporation tax contributing just 8% of the tax government collects, compared with 45% from income tax and National Insurance, is this a sign of more to come?

The Super Deduction is another effort by the Chancellor to encourage business investment. For the next two years, when businesses invest in new equipment, they will be able to offset all the cost against tax, plus an additional 30%. The ambition is to take the UK from 30th to 1st when it comes to business investment and is being touted as the single biggest business tax cut in modern British history.

3) A boost for prospective home buyers

Facing a cliff-edge with the stamp duty holiday set to expire at the end of March, the Chancellor opted to extend this holiday until the end of June with the nil rate being £250,000, double its standard level until the end of September.

Perhaps more interesting was the decision to bring back 95% mortgages in the form of a mortgage guarantee in a bid to help first-time buyers. The Chancellor has suggested this policy has the backing of major lenders across the country but is facing backlash from critics who say it will do little to protect generation rent and only help higher income earners.

4) Green growth is a popular strategy

With the hosting of COP26, the environment is a significant policy focus this year and there was plenty of environment-related content in this year’s Budget.

A key announcement was the launch of the UK’s first infrastructure bank located in Leeds to accelerate progress to Net Zero. The Chancellor also unveiled the world’s first government green bond and measures were outlined to bring down carbon emissions, including a more extensive electric vehicle-charging network and earmarked investment into cleantech.

Critics will say this goes nowhere near as far enough and point to the fact that fuel duty remains frozen, but the statement today indicates the growing importance of green growth as a popular post-pandemic strategy.

5) An ongoing and reinforced commitment to levelling up across the country

In his statement, the Chancellor pledged to use the full measure of our fiscal firepower to think about the future of our economy and UK-wide levelling up remains a core ambition of this Government.

In a win for red wall Tories, Mr Sunak confirmed that the Treasury’s new economic campus will be in Darlington, contrasting with the officials’ preferred options of Leeds and Newcastle.

He also announced the launch of two UK-wide new funds, a Levelling Up Fund worth £4 billion to invest in infrastructure, town centres and high streets and heritage and cultural assets, and a £220 million Community Renewal Fund, with 100 priority places already identified to receive assistance with their applications.

But the big announcement that came at the end was the naming of eight freeport locations across England, including East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe and Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth, Solent, Thames. And Teesside.

 

Our verdict

This was a critical moment for the Government and the Chancellor who used this Budget to balance the support individuals and businesses need with an insight on where he sees the country going as we recover from the pandemic. With many of the announcements trailed in advance, there were no major surprises, but it can be argued that today’s Budget is simply a placeholder for what is to come in the autumn, when the focus will be less on support and more on the Government’s vision and ambition for the rest of this Parliament and beyond.

If you would like to discuss any issues outlined in the Budget in further detail, then please do not hesitate to get in contact with Samir Dwesar.

Reaching 270: Dispatches from the battleground states

Reaching 270: Dispatches from the battleground states

 

The pandemic sadly meant no trip to the US to help campaign in what has proven to be one of the most exciting and unpredictable elections in our lifetime. But that didn’t stop me from speaking to voters from across key battleground states to get a feel for what’s happening on the ground, what’s driving their voting decisions and whether they think Trump or Biden will win.

What’s a “battleground” state?

The nature of America’s electoral college system means that a candidate must secure a majority (270) of the electoral college’s 538 votes in order to win the presidency. Battleground states are those which don’t have a clear Republican or Democratic lean in an election and whose electoral college votes are critical to a candidate’s path to 270. With the majority of states requiring electors to award their votes based on who won the state’s popular vote, this leaves candidates fighting for every vote in these states – which is why they are often referred to as “battlegrounds.”

Five US elections have produced presidents that were electoral college winners but not popular vote winners. Two of these elections were as recent as 2000 and 2016, which produced the two most recent Republican presidents: George W. Bush and Donald Trump.

I spoke to voters in the battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia. Trump won all of these states in 2016, but the polls put all of these states in play to flip to Democratic support. Let’s travel through them:

Michigan (16 electoral votes)
Until 2016, Michigan was one of the “Blue Wall” states won by Democrats in every presidential election since 1992. Michigan was the closest contest in 2016, with Trump defeating Hillary Clinton by a margin of 0.23% (or just 10,723 votes). Several polls suggest Biden is ahead – a view echoed by Sara, a democratic voter who lives near Detroit. As to why she thinks Biden will win Michigan, Sara pointed to the fact that Trump has been bleeding support among white suburban women that turned out for him in 2016. She also said Biden’s association with President Obama will help bring minority voters to the polls in communities like Detroit and Flint, which saw an enthusiasm gap for Clinton in 2016 that led to decreased support and turnout.

Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes)
A Blue Wall state that went for Trump by fewer than 45,000 votes in 2016, many expect Pennsylvania to be the “tipping point” state this election cycle. Biden was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania and often speaks of his connection and affinity with the state, but is it translating into votes? Democratic voter Ellie from Pittsburgh says polls are pointing to a Biden win, but she sees a mixed bag of support on the ground. She is deeply concerned about the possibility of lawsuits and votes not being counted.

Voter suppression and confusion over states’ differing mail-in ballot rules have been major issues across the country. Most election laws – such as how an election is conducted, who is eligible to vote and how mail-in voting works – are determined by state government. Dozens of election-related cases have already been sent to state and federal courts and challenges to vote counting and the validity of ballots are expected to be sent to the courts after Election Day, which could delay results.

Ohio (18 electoral votes)
No Republican candidate has ever won the presidency without winning Ohio. Trump won the state by an impressive 8.13% in 2016, but recent polls have suggested the race is neck and neck. James, a 63-year-old city official from Northeast Ohio and registered Republican, early voted for a third party candidate in 2016 and did the same this year. Dissatisfied by Trump and Biden, James questioned whether these two are really the best America can do, pointing to Trump’s personality and handling of Covid-19 as well as Biden’s age and support for larger government and higher taxes. In his Republican-leaning area, James said the yard signs are about 50/50, but said many are not putting out signs or are even lying about their voting attentions.

As someone who voted against both candidates, James was clear about his hopes for a Trump or Biden presidency. He said if Trump wins, he hopes Trump becomes more human and restores America as a model example for the world. James says Biden will have a lot of work to do and hopes to see bipartisan efforts to bring the country together again after four years of division.

Karen, a lifelong Ohio Republican feels that both parties have changed over the years but says her decision to support Republican candidates this year is purely policy-driven and not about personalities. The economy is Karen’s top driver and like many of the Democrats I’ve spoken to, she laments the division and viciousness that exists both locally and nationally. And like James, she said many people aren’t talking about their political views to mitigate risking relationships. She hopes either a Trump or Biden presidency will show an ability and willingness to work for a common good and compromise, and fears civil unrest and policies that are too extreme in either direction.

But will Ohio flip blue? Karen doesn’t trust the polls but said, whilst the state has a history of voting Republican, it might be different this time. For James, his gut tells him Trump will win the state of Ohio, but Biden will win over the country.

North Carolina (15 electoral votes)
Carter and Ava are millennials living in Durham, North Carolina – a state which backed President Obama in 2008, but flipped back to the Republicans in 2012 and went to Trump in 2016.

Carter is a registered Independent but he is firmly behind Biden. He said he was sickened by how shamelessly Trump espouses divisive rhetoric and expressed hope that the Biden-Harris ticket will restore some dignity to the White House.

Carter cites healthcare as a key factor for his vote. He wants to see a public healthcare option, particularly being a grad student, he worries he may struggle to find a job in this uncertain economy. He said climate change is another reason why Carter feels strongly against Trump and noted that America needs a leader who is willing to use the power of science to guide policies and decisions at keeping our planet habitable.

Ava echoed Carter’s views but admitted she isn’t thrilled about Biden, waiting for the day when the President isn’t an older white male. But she was clear that America’s polarised two-party system and the issues she cares about – human rights, racial justice, reproductive rights and gun control – mean she has no choice but to vote for the Democratic nominee.

Both Carter and Ava said they rarely see Trump signs in their community, the largest metropolitan area of the state. But a 15-20 minute drive takes them through Trump country. They feel it’s too tough to gauge who will emerge victorious in their home state, but express confidence in a Biden win. Like Ellie in Pennsylvania, Ava is deeply worried about voter suppression, particularly in black communities.

Business owner Stephen, 35, lives in a rural area of North Carolina that strongly supported Trump in 2016. He is backing Trump this year and, just like Karen in Ohio, the economy is his major driver. A self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, Stephen supports the Republican Party’s stance on capitalism, smaller government and deregulation. But despite his support for Trump, he still fears continued economic downturn driven by Covid-19 and a rise in cases.

For Stephen, what he’s seeing on the ground points to a racial divide. He sees far more Trump signs in his rural area, but noted that many African-American businesses close to him have Biden signs. He has also encountered many voters who remain undecided and has spoken to some who have switched their support from Trump to Biden. Like many, his 2016 prediction casts a shadow but he still feels that Biden will win the presidency.

Georgia (16 electoral votes)
Typically considered a firmly Republican state, the fact that Georgia is even in play for Biden should be worrisome for Trump. The last Democrat to carry Georgia was Bill Clinton in 1992. But changing demographics and a considerable African-American population are driving a tight race.

James, Nadia and Renee are all 30-somethings living in Atlanta, but aren’t all on the same page politically.

James decided to cast an early vote for Trump. Despite some misgivings about his handling of the pandemic, James said Trump achieved a strong US economy before the pandemic, the lowest unemployment rate on record and placed three conservative justices on the Supreme Court. In his words, “he puts America first, which should be the first priority of anyone elected President” and once we have a vaccine, “President Trump is the right man to get our economy back on track.” James thinks the election will be close, but ultimately Trump will win Georgia and a second term. But like some of our Democrats, he thinks the election outcome could be litigated well past Election Day and ultimately end up at the Supreme Court.

Born in Brazil and raised in South Florida, Renee said the main reason driving her vote for Biden was being able to vote against Trump. She didn’t care who the Democratic nominee was – she said her vote is against “an awful human being and a detriment to our nation.” On the issues she hopes a Biden presidency will address, Renee lists campaign finance reform, climate change, criminal justice reform, changes to the Supreme Court, statehood for Washington DC and Puerto Rico, and gerrymandering.

Biden-backing Nadia fears a second Trump will bring the overturning of Roe v Wade (a landmark Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights), a slower economic recovery and an even more divided country. On why she’s voting for Biden, Nadia says: ”to help shape an America I can feel confident in, not one that leaves me in a constant state of concern for our future.”

Nadia and Renee recognise that their age, demographic and location position them to see more Biden/Harris signs, but note that sentiment shifts to Trump when travelling outside of Atlanta. Both think Biden will win regardless of the outcome in Georgia, but remain cautious after polls had Clinton winning in 2016. “I don’t want to get my hopes up like I did in 2016, only to spend the next four years devastated,” Nadia said.

What can we learn from these voters and why should you care?

Support for Trump seems to be driven by the economy rather than his personality, whereas support for Biden was driven by a variety of issues. While these voters represent a broad spectrum of views and values, they all share caution and uncertainty over who they think will win their state and ultimately take the presidency. They also point to increasing divisiveness in the US and concern over what the next four years will look like.

The upcoming US elections will be one of the most consequential elections to take place in any country in decades, with the outcome having significant repercussions around the world. Who will be the next US president will impact the UK on a range of key issues such as foreign policy, climate change and a US/UK trade deal.

To find out what the first 100 days of a Biden presidency or a second term for Trump could look like, join us on Tuesday 10 November at 4pm to hear from US strategists representing both parties.

Is this the storm before the calm: deal or no deal?

Is this the storm before the calm: deal or no deal?

Brexit impasse continues as the Prime Minister today confirmed that the UK must be prepared for no deal once the transition period ends on 31st December. This follows the UK Chief Negotiator David Frost’s tweets last night where he expressed disappointment in the EU Council’s conclusions, adding that he was surprised that the ‘EU is no longer committed to working intensively to reach a future partnership’.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the UK’s desire for a Canada-style relationship but said the EU’s position following the summit appears to be in stark contrast to this ambition. He accused the EU of refusing to negotiate seriously over the last few months and in light of all this, has concluded that businesses, hauliers and travellers should prepare for no deal. 

The UK set a deadline of 15th October to decide whether to continue talks or walk away. The Prime Minister has said he is prepared to continue talking to the EU if they offer some ‘fundamental change of approach’ and declined to say whether the UK was willing to walk away now. But deadlines are fast approaching. Any draft agreement text must be ready by early November in order for the European Parliament to ratify any agreement by the end of the year. The EU’s Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier has echoed this saying that fresh intensive talks over the next two weeks should aim to reach a deal by the end of October.

Some hope for a deal remains. Not only has Boris Johnson stopped short of ruling out further talks, but the EU remains open to intensifying the negotiations. EU Commission Vice President, Maroš Šefčovič believes that whilst difficult, a deal remains possible and the Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin has suggested that a deal is still possible within the timeframe. The French Government has also expressed support for negotiations to continue into November if the deadlock continues and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel has warned that the EU must be more realistic in accepting the UK’s position.

But significant gaps remain on fisheries and state aid and the question is whether these can be narrowed in the coming days and weeks. Several Member States, including Belgium, France and Denmark have not given Michel Barnier and his negotiating team any flexibility on fisheries and the UK is adamant that it should have full sovereignty over its state aid regime. 

Alongside this, the Internal Market Bill continues to cause controversy with the EU having commenced legal action on the grounds of it violating the Withdrawal Agreement. This all heightens the prospects of a no deal come January 1st and in their written conclusions following European Council this week, the EU gave little away to suggest that they would be willing to compromise. Instead, Charles Michel, the European Council’s President said it was for the UK Government to make concessions, something Johnson may need to do to secure a much-needed political win.

Cavendish Advocacy will be holding a What Next: Future of Europe? towards the end of 2020. Please watch our website for further details.

An end to the virtual Parliament: Is this simply another example of tradition for tradition’s sake?

An end to the virtual Parliament: Is this simply another example of tradition for tradition’s sake?

Last month, I wrote about the joys and challenges of a virtual Parliament and what this all means for public affairs professionals.

I said it remained to be seen how long virtual Parliament would last and it turned out to be sooner than I expected. The Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg opted to end the ‘hybrid’ working model which had been in place since mid-April arguing that politics “is better done face-to-face”.

Under Mr Rees-Mogg’s plan, which has now been approved, MPs will be asked to form kilometre-long queues to obey social distancing rules when voting. The Lords, by contrast, is developing a new online voting system, which is expected to be ready by the middle of the month.

Whilst the proposal states that MPs should be physically in Parliament in order to participate, Rees-Mogg has said that he will bring forward a further proposal allowing those who cannot attend Parliament due to age or medical restrictions to be able to question the Government remotely. Rees-Mogg suggested that these MPs would be unable to vote but could be ‘paired up’ with a colleague from the opposition who agrees not to vote so the numbers are cancelled out.

The plans have sparked incredulity, concern and condemnation from the opposition MPs and some members of his own party. Critics said the Government’s plan excluded vulnerable MPs, including those shielding, as well as MPs with caring responsibilities. Scottish MPs expressed deep reservations about having to travel hundreds of miles back to London.

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The Equality and Human Rights Commission also joined calls to ensure MPs can work remotely saying it puts MPs unable to attend Parliament “at a significant disadvantage”.

The row continued with the Prime Minister saying at PMQs that older MPs and those shielding should be allowed to vote by proxy, a move which Labour called a u-turn. It wasn’t enough to get Tory critic and Chair of the Procedure Committee, Karen Bradley on board either. She pointed out that the proxy scheme is due to expire in July 2020 and was “not suitable to be extended to several dozen members” – it is generally used for MPs who are on parental leave.

Many Conservative MPs have, however, welcomed the end to the virtual Parliament. Some have argued that a virtual Parliament hinders Parliament from performing its role effectively. Others have suggested that it was unreasonable for MPs to not be back at work when the Government has asked schools to reopen. Essentially, parliamentarians should lead by example.

And whilst the vast majority Tory MPs followed the whip and duly voted to approve the plans without amendments, a sizeable number rebelled. Foreign Affairs Committee Chair, Tom Tugendhat said he was going to vote with the Government and then saw the queues. He waited almost an hour to vote and opted to rebel. Voting normally takes 15 minutes.

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The mix of Tory rebels was eclectic and represented the breadth of the parliamentary party: hardcore Brexiteers like Peter Bone and John Redwood, former Ministers like Tracey Crouch and Nusrat Ghani and Select Committee Chairs like Tugendhat, Caroline Nokes, and Greg Clark. Many were the same names who publicly called for Dominic Cummings’ resignation.

The Government may have won the votes, but around a third of MPs representing millions of constituents were effectively left disenfranchised because they could not get to Westminster. Education Committee Chair, Robert Halfon, who is shielding summed it up well saying “If I can’t vote, I don’t have a choice to vote, I’m a parliamentary eunuch.” In an interview, he simply concluded “I just want to do my job.”

As public affairs professionals, we were quick to embrace the new normal, making great use of digital tools in engaging with parliamentarians and devising creative and proactive meetings programmes. My clients have got virtual meetings with parliamentarians and officials in the coming weeks and I expect this to continue being the norm for the foreseeable future.

But given fewer opportunities for participation with many MPs remaining remote and others unable to question ministers as only 50 MPs are allowed in the Chamber at a time, the return to a ‘traditional’ Parliament poses challenges for us and begs the question of how Parliament will effectively function in the coming weeks.