If there was any doubt still remaining that Rishi Sunak’s first Budget will be dominated by the coronavirus, the Chancellor’s Sunday media round ought to have put that to bed. With three days to go until the government’s first big fiscal event since winning an 80-seat majority, Sunak has been touring the broadcast studios of Sky and the BBC to trail the contents of his red box.
Speaking to Andrew Marr, Sunak was clear that the priority of the Budget would be making sure that both members of the public and businesses receive the support they need to respond to the virus in the coming weeks and months:
I can say absolutely categorically the NHS will get whatever resources it needs to get us through this and to respond to the health crisis … they are going to be on the front line of responding to this and we want to make sure they have everything they need.
Senior government figures are bracing themselves for the spread of the virus to escalate in the days to come — some even think virus figures could be the biggest story on Budget day. Sunak said he would be pledging extra money both for the NHS and for businesses that could come under pressure as a result of the virus’s knock on-effect to the economy. He said the focus of the business relief would be on funding bridging financing rather than providing bailouts. The decision not to bail out the ailing Flybe last week (despite doing so once before) gives a good indicator of how the government will conduct its approach. He was also adamant that coronavirus uncertainty ought not to change the date the U.K. ends the Brexit transition period — insisting that little good ever comes from delay.