On January 31, 2020 the UK formally left the European Union and entered an 11 month transition period, in which the two sides must agree on a new political and economic relationship. This timeline, which was already ambitious, was cast into further doubt by the arrival of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the UK's first cases recorded on the same day it left the EU. By the middle of March 2020, the pandemic had forced the simultaneous lockdown of most European countries, causing devastation to the UK economy. In April the GDP of the UK fell by 20.4 percent, the biggest monthly fall in GDP ever recorded. Unemployment claims, which numbered 1.24 million in March 2020 increased by 850 thousand in one month to reach over 2 million by April. Business confidence, as well as consumer confidence has fallen sharply, and it is certain that the lockdown will result in the permanent shutdown of some businesses.
Compared with otherEuropean countries, the United Kingdom is likely to be one of the worst affected countries, with annual GDP expected to contract by 8.3 percent in 2020. Although the UK government moved swiftly to mitigate the economic devastation of the virus, by furloughing workers and protecting the incomes of the self-employed, it's handling of the public health crisis has been much less assured. There is also the fact that the UK economy is heavily reliant on it's service sector, which is certain to suffer the most from the lockdown. Provided there is no second-wave of the Coronavirus, it is forecast there will be a recovery in 2021, although there will undoubtedly be lasting implications for the labor market, with unemployment hovering above five percent well into 2021.