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Illustration by Adam Howling

Shock therapy: How the pandemic is resetting Britain’s whole free market model

The Brexit economy was meant to break free from the continent, but the force of events is fast pushing its ruling philosophy in precisely the opposite direction

The British government’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic has produced one undisputed success: the quick establishment of the furlough programme for workers in the first lockdown of spring 2020.

In very little time, the Treasury set up an ambitious wage subsidy scheme more or less from scratch. It was accompanied by a number of other economic support schemes for workers, some of the self-employed and businesses, especially in the hard-hit sectors. While complaints were made about many of the accompanying schemes which saw people fall between the cracks, the main furlough scheme was largely seen as well conceived and aptly executed.

What’s interesting about this British success story is that until 2020 it would have been regarded as anything but British—it goes against what has long been seen as the governing philosophy…

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