House of Commons
In recess until 7 January
A postcard from Verdansk
Written by Adam Shaw, associate partner
Edited by Iain Gibson, associate partner
21 December 2020
Yesterday, Alex Thomson, chief correspondent at Channel 4 News, posted a tweet that appeared to question The Guardian’s need for a video games editor. He later clarified that this was tongue-in-cheek and part of a wider look at “bonkers” job titles, but the example was a poor one.
Research from YouGov found that 67% of the UK population classify themselves as gamers when asked if they play video games or mobile games on any device. And, according to gaming trade body the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie), the gaming industry contributed £2.91 billion in GVA to the UK economy in 2019 – up 9.1% on the year before – and directly supports 50,000 full-time equivalent jobs ( FTEs)..
To put this in context, fishing, which has proved such a thorny issue in the UK-EU trade talks, contributes £784 million and directly employs around 12,000.
Gaming was already experiencing strong and consistent growth, and has been boosted further during the Covid-19 pandemic as people seek entertainment within the home. In March and April, Microsoft reported a 130% increase in multiplayer engagement, while Nintendo said that sales of its Switch console were up 24% year-on-year in May.
My own experience certainly reflects this. I’ve always enjoyed video games. But my Playstation has taken on increased importance these past nine months. As I haven’t been able to go to the pub, play my weekly games of five-a-side, or even just pop round to other people’s houses for a beer or coffee, the ability to chat and play online with friends means the Playstation network (other consoles and gaming platforms are available) has filled a social void.
Whether it’s taking a football team from the lower leagues to European glory, living the lives of outlaws in the 19th century American frontier, or fighting to remain the last team standing in Verdansk (a fictional city in Call of Duty) , gaming has provided a much-needed blend of escapism and social interaction.
Judging from today’s headlines, we’re going to need that more than ever.
Coronavirus cases in the UK yesterday rose by 35,298 – an all-time high for recorded cases and nearly double the number recorded last Sunday – according to the latest figures. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, warned that a new variant of coronavirus, which is thought to be up to 70% more transmissible than previous types, is “out of control”.
In related news, France will prevent lorries from entering from the UK for 48 hours due to concerns over the spread of the new strain of coronavirus in the UK. As a result, the Port of Dover is closed to traffic leaving the UK “until further notice” and the government has warned of significant disruption in Kent. A number of countries have also suspended flights from the UK. The prime minister will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee later today.
UK and EU negotiators will continue to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal today after another deadline was missed yesterday. The failure to reach a deal over the weekend means the European parliament will now refuse to vote on any agreement before the end of the year, meaning Brussels will need to explore legal stopgap solutions for any deal to take effect on time. This may require EU capitals to “provisionally apply” a deal on 1 January, to avoid a no-deal exit, until parliament votes later in the month.
Sir Keir Starmer will promise a “fresh and tangible offer” to Scottish voters as part of a new wave of devolution across the UK in a speech today. The Labour leader will say that the pandemic has “put rocket boosters” under demands for more powers to be decentralised from Westminster to the English regions and announce a commission on devolution that will “consider how power, wealth and opportunity can be devolved to the most local level”. (£)
Business and economy
Business groups have called for a renewed package of support for companies to deal with the “crippling blow” of tighter government restrictions at a crucial time of the year. Under the new tier 4 measures announced suddenly over the weekend, non-essential shops, hairdressers and leisure and entertainment venues were forced to close yesterday. (£)
HM Revenue & Customs should publish a list of companies that utilised the furlough scheme and those that have done well despite the pandemic should be pressured to return the money, according to a report from Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) published yesterday. Meg Hillier, the chair of the committee, said that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” and that “if a company’s got nothing to hide, it should not be worried about its name being made public”. (£)
US lawmakers have agreed a $900 billion stimulus package – the second largest in American history after the $2.2 trillion Cares Act in March – that includes further relief for small business and direct payments to families suffering in the coronavirus pandemic. The agreement was reached just hours before funding was due to expire, which would have seen the federal government shut down. (£)
Columns of note
In The Times, Clare Foges urges Boris Johnson to dispense with his unrealistic optimism and adopt a more realistic approach. She highlights the occasions during the pandemic when the prime minister has over-promised and delayed delivering bad news while dismissing Keir Starmer for not having the requisite Blitz spirit, only to backtrack later. Foges states her belief that Johnson does not set out to be duplicitous or mislead, rather it’s his desperation to be liked which creates issues. However, this is a trait which is incompatible with leading the country at this time. (£)
In the Financial Times Big Read, Derek Brower examines the prospects for the green agenda in the US under President-elect Biden. While 81 million Americans backed a candidate who said he hopes to “transition from the oil industry” and put clean energy at the centre of a $2 trillion green plan, political reality means progress may not be as quick as some hoped, due to the power of congressional Republicans. There is “low hanging fruit” which the Biden administration will look to action, however, any measures requiring bipartisan support will likely amount to less than the clean energy revolution that Biden supporters seek. (£)
The week ahead
Many will be hoping for a quiet week in the run up to Christmas. However, with a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and EU deal yet to be reached ahead of the transition period ending on 1 January, as well as concerns over the new variant of coronavirus, this may be wishful thinking.
Yet another Brexit deadline passed without agreement yesterday. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, warned on Friday that there was “just a few hours” left to reach a deal. Talks will continue today, however, UK officials have warned that significant differences remain.
On a more positive note, a long-awaited $900 billion US stimulus bill has been agreed and this will be welcomed by investors.
There is little market news scheduled for this week. The London Stock Exchange will close at 12.30 on Christmas Eve (Thursday) and not reopen until Tuesday 29 December due to Christmas falling on a Friday and being immediately followed by the weekend, meaning Monday 28 December is a non-trading day.
Christmas Day is the only full non-trading day for the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq, however, both will close at 1pm on Christmas Eve.
What’s happening today?
Int. economic announcements
(07:00) GFK Consumer Confidence (GER)
Baths with bubbles keep warm for longer than those without.
House of Commons
In recess until 7 January
House of Lords
In recess until 7 January
No business scheduled.
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