OPINION – The Standard View: A trade war with Europe is not the answer to the cost of living crisis

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(Christian Adams)

The UK economy shrank by a larger than expected 0.3 per cent in April, heightening fears that Britain is headed for recession. City experts had been expecting output to contract by 0.1 per cent, following a similar decline in March.

The second consecutive fall can be attributed, in part, to the ramping down of the NHS Test and Trace programme. But of the three broad categories the Office for National Statistics uses — services, manufacturing and construction — all were down. There is no getting away from it: difficult times lie ahead.

As such, hard-pressed consumers might expect their government to be exploring every possible avenue to boost economic growth. Instead, we have one that, in threatening to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol, could spark a calamitous trade war with our most important trading partners.

The Protocol does need fixing. It is not sustainable that Northern Ireland should remain without a functioning executive indefinitely. The European Union ought to show greater flexibility to help bring about a status quo all can live with. Yet that requires a UK Government that is, and is seen to be, interested in good faith negotiation and making concrete improvements, rather than grandstanding in the forever Brexit wars.

In the Seventies, when Britain endured the twin terrors of high inflation and low growth, it found a solution: it joined the European Community, the predecessor to the EU. The gains were not instantaneous, but eventually, by tearing down trade barriers and boosting competitiveness, it helped Britain to throw off its ‘sick man of Europe’ tag. This time, the response seems to be less Europe, less trade and less growth. Is this really a sensible solution to the cost of living crisis?

Feed the children

The Government’s food strategy, revealed today, faces criticism from all sides — not least its author. Restaurateur and businessman Henry Dimbleby, who led the review, condemned the final document as “not a strategy” for failing to set out a clear vision on everything from sustainable farming to action on obesity.

And there is another clear policy conspicuous by its absence: the expansion of free school meals. Pointing to rising inflation and falling living standards, Dimbleby called for more students to be able to benefit, but this seems to have fallen on deaf ears. The Standard has long highlighted issues of food poverty, most recently teaming up with the Felix Project as part of our Food For London Now campaign to help end food poverty in London.

Amid tough economic times, we must prioritise the absolute basics of getting our children fed so they can live healthy, happy lives and when in school be able to focus on learning, not where their next meal is coming from.

Chatbot in charge

“LaMDA is a sweet kid who just wants to help the world be a better place for all of us,” a Google engineer wrote in an email. Lamda is, of course, an automated chatbot. The employee in question has been placed on leave for claiming Lamda had become sentient.

It appears we now live in a world in which some of our Cabinet ministers fail the Turing Test, but machines are passing with flying colours.