Friday, August 5, 2022

From the cost of living to strikes, all the big issues Boris Johnson faces in his final days

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As acting prime minister, Mr Johnson is likely to face further calls for a Scottish independence referendum and anger over his Northern Ireland Protocol Act

As caretaker prime minister, Mr Johnson will refrain from introducing new policies, leaving key decisions such as tax cuts and spending to his successor.

A slew of simmering national troubles that could erupt over the next few weeks mean Boris Johnson’s final days in office are likely to be anything but smooth.

However, he will continue to push the current government policy.

Rising inflation and a deepening cost-of-living crisis will put pressure on the government, but the country should not expect sweeping reforms to help ailing budgets.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman has previously said the government “will not seek major fiscal changes, nor will it seek to roll back previously agreed measures”.

The government is likely to reiterate messages about its existing support package, including cost of living payments to vulnerable households.

The summer could be seriously disrupted by a new round of rail strikes, giving commuters a headache.

It is likely that the government will again condemn union action and urge workers to avoid strikes.

Ministers will push ahead with a change in law that will allow companies to use skilled agency workers to fill staffing gaps during strikes.

Mr Johnson will also have to respond to exam results over the summer, which are sure to cause disappointment among students and parents across the country.

Grade inflation over the past two years – thanks to the replacement of exams with teacher appraisals – is expected to be diluted as the Department of Education begins to return to pre-pandemic grade standards.

Ofqual has said that “Summer 2022 results will be higher than the last summer exams, but lower than in 2021, when marks were awarded through teacher evaluation”.

A final unannounced appearance by Mr Johnson walking the streets of Kyiv with his counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not beyond the realm of possibility.

His first visit was well received at home, but can now be viewed as a promotional tactic.

He will continue to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and send messages of support. And his successor is expected to continue to support the country militarily and politically.

Mr Johnson’s recent weeks in office have been dominated by ongoing talks with the European Union over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Brexit deal on trade deals for the nation that the government wants to override.

The committee phase for the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which will consider the legislation, is due to start on July 13.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman confirmed that the issue “would certainly fall under the category of the continuation of pre-agreed government policies”.

Even as his government collapsed, Mr Johnson found time to reject Nicola Sturgeon’s request for another independence referendum.

Scotland’s First Minister will continue to plead for another vote on the issue, having previously said a change in leadership will still mean the Westminster system fails to serve her nation’s interests.

Following his resignation, Ms Sturgeon said: “I think Scotland needs a durable alternative to Westminster, which is why choosing independence is so necessary.”

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