UK: Govt to Fund Wages for Closed Businesses – But Reports Claim EU Trying to Block Aid

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Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, urged employers not to lay off workers in sectors largely closed down by the Chinese coronavirus outbreak sector, promising to fund 80 per cent of workers’ pay if bosses put staff on furlough instead.

“I know people are worried. I know that some people in the last few days have already lost their jobs. To all those at home anxious about the days ahead, I say this: you will not face this alone,” said the Chancellor, after the Government finally moved to shut down hospitality businesses such as pubs, cafes, and restraurants, as well as public entertainment venues like cinemas and theatres and gyms.

“Let me speak directly to businesses: I know it’s incredibly difficult out there — we in government are doing everything we can to support you. The government is doing its best to stand behind you and I’m asking you to do your best to stand behind our workers,” Sunak implored.

Sadly, the measures have come too late for some workers, such as Britannia Hotels employees near Aviemore, Scotland, who were told they were sacked and must vacate their on-site accommodation with almost no notice — a move the business now claims was an “administrative error” following public backlash.

As the finance minister was announcing the measures as part of an “unprecedented” package of government support for businesses through the pandemic, however, the European Union was reportedly moving to block certain aspects of his aid package.

According to Steven Swinford, the deputy political editor at The Times, the European Commission believes that, for example, offering business rates exemptions to specific sectors rather than all sectors violates state EU aid rules.

Britain technically left the EU at the end of January, but despite losing its representation in the European Council and European Parliament, very little has changed, with the country remaining subject to its laws, judges, and Free Movement migration regime — to the extent that the pandemic has not disrupted it — through a so-called “transition” period to the end of December, which may now be extended.

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