The Speaker
Friday, 8 December 2023 – 16:11

2020, as it happened in UK and world politics

It’s Time to Get 2020 Done.

It’s usually difficult to summarise a year in one article, but this year that task is so much more difficult. For this year has been truly unprecedented – yes, unprecedented. It’s a word which we’ve all heard a bit too much by now, but it’s true. Every year, something happens that will go down in the history books for bad or for good, but this year really has hit a different level.

2020 has been the year we stayed at home. The year we learned to live and work online. The year we distanced ourselves from the ones we love. The year where we lost so much and so many. The year when we demanded change. When politics witnessed both cummings and goings, endings and new beginnings. The year when we volunteered and adapted. When we clapped for our carers and were inspired by heroes. The year where we fought back the tears and lived through the tiers. The year when however physically far apart we were pushed, we’ve found ways to get through it, together.

Our lives have all changed in 2020. There’s no denying it.

As it draws to a close, its time to look back on the year. It’s been miserable, down and depressing. But that’s just one side of the story. Yes, this year has been overwhelmingly negative, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to forget to talk about the good news when it did happen.

Through the downs, more downs and the high points, this is our review our 2020, as it happened in UK and world politics.

January 2020

Difficult Start To The Year

Australia on Fire: Just days into the year, there was not one, but two crises threatening to tear countries apart – one quite literally. Australia began its largest peacetime evacuation as strong winds and hot weather worsened already devastating bushfires. The fires, which began in September 2019 and worsened at the start of the new year, destroyed thousands of homes, millions of acres of land and cost hundreds of lives.

World War 3: Meanwhile, ‘World War 3’ was trending on social media as tensions rose between the United States and the Middle East. One of Iran’s top military commanders, Qassem Soleimani was killed by US forces in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump. The days following the airstrike saw large protests in the US, Europe and the Middle East, while more than 150 anti-war activists gathered outside Downing Street. 35 people were left dead during a stampede as Iran mourned the killing of General Soleimani. In retaliation against the US, Iran fired 22 ballistic missiles at two Iraqi bases housing US and coalition troops, though it is not thought anyone was injured. On 8 January 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down by Iranian forces by accident, killing all 176 people on board.

Brexit: Prime Minister Boris Johnson managed to get MPs to agree to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement and the UK finally left the European Union on 31 January 2020 following the EU referendum in 2016.

Coronavirus: Nations scrambled to evacuate their citizens from the Chinese city of Wuhan due to the then little known Coronavirus. A Public Health England (PHE) boss said that it was ‘highly likely’ that cases of the new strain of the virus would come to the UK and the UK held its first COBRA meeting on the outbreak of the virus. The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak of the new coronavirus as a global emergency on 31 January. At this point, China had thousands of reported cases, while there had been 98 cases of the virus confirmed in 18 different countries.

Also in January… Political leaders, faith leaders and members of the royal family attended events to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day, 75 years on from the liberation of a former Nazi death camp, Auschwitz. Chinese tech firm Huawei was told that it would continue to be allowed involvement in the UK’s 5G networks, but with restrictions. The UK faced a Royal Crisis as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they “intend to step back as ‘senior’ members of the Royal Family”. The Labour Party’s leadership election got well underway, with Sir Keir Starmer as the frontrunner to replace Jeremy Corbyn. Marjan Šarec, the Prime Minister of Slovenia, announced his resignation, it was announced that UK rail operator Northern Rail was to be taken under Government control and a new report revealed that the multi-million pound ‘Get Ready for Brexit’ campaign had little effect.

February 2020

The UK Responds To A Terror Attack in London

Streatham Stabbing: On the afternoon of Sunday 2 February, two people were stabbed in Streatham, London, in what was declared a terrorist incident. The attacker, who was shot dead by police, had only recently been released from prison after serving time for terror offences. Following the attack, the UK Government introduced emergency legislation to prevent terrorists from being automatically freed from prison halfway through their sentences.

Cabinet Reshuffle: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson made significant changes in a Cabinet Reshuffle. Notably, Rishi Sunak, the Conservative MP for Richmond (Yorks) replaced Sajid Javid as Chancellor of the Exchequer following reported tensions and multiple clashes between Mr Javid and Mr Johnson’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings.

Home Office Trouble: The Home Office’s top civil servant, Sir Philip Rutnam resigned and threatened to sue the government. The departure of Mr Rutnam came following reports of severe tensions between Mr Rutnam and Priti Patel, the Home Secretary.

Coronavirus: At this point, life was continuing as normal in the UK as the Coronavirus continued to spread. Large events, including the UK Bus Summit at the QEII Conference Centre, still went ahead, with an attendee of the event testing positive for the virus. Some warnings and travel advice were issued relating to the virus outbreak, but no major restrictions were introduced.

Also in February… It was announced that Dame Karen Pierce was to become the first woman to hold the role of the UK ambassador to the US. Trump fired two senior officials who testified against him in his impeachment trial. The UK Government unveiled its new post-Brexit points-based immigration system. Storm Ciara caused havoc across the UK through widespread flooding. Journalists walked out of a Downing Street press briefing after the Prime Minister’s director of communications attempted to restrict the briefing to only certain publications and broadcasters. London Mayoral election candidate and former Conservative leadership candidate Rory Stewart launched his #ComeKipWithMe campaign whereby he asked Londoners to invite him into their homes so he could get to know the cities.

March 2020

World Goes Into Lockdown

Lockdown: Schools in Italy closed at the start of March and went into total lockdown days later, while restrictions also started emerging in other countries around the world. The UK Government published an action plan for tackling the virus: “Contain, Delay, Research, Mitigate”. The UK local and mayoral elections were delayed, and the Bank of England issued an emergency cut to interest rates amid the virus outbreak. Supermarkets started rationing as the public panic-bought loo roll and other items. Europe’s borders closed, major sporting events were cancelled, the release of films including the Bond film ‘No Time To Die’ was delayed and on 16 March, Britons were told to avoid all but essential travel and contact with others. On 20 March, all schools in the UK closed, along with pubs, restaurants, gyms and cinemas due to the pandemic. The Olympics and the Euros were postponed until 2021 and ‘shielding’ measures were set out for 1.5 million people. On 23 March, Boris Johnson told the UK, “You must stay at home”. 

Economy Starts To Suffer: Regional airline Flybe collapsed into administration and ceased trading, partly blaming the outbreak of COVID-19 – other airlines including Easyjet, grounded their entire fleet, with some pilots becoming supermarket delivery drivers. Fashion chain Laura Ashley filed for administration after rescue talks were halted by the Coronavirus outbreak. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the Government would cover 80% of the salary of retained workers in UK businesses, up to a total of £2,500 a month.

Clap for Carers: The UK came together with people across the country standing on their doorsteps and at their windows, clapping at 8pm to show their appreciation for NHS and key workers. At the end of March, a consultant working in Derby and Burton hospitals died after testing positive for COVID-19, becoming the first frontline worker part of NHS England to die in the response to the Coronavirus.

Also in March… Russia’s Constitutional Court ruled that President Vladimir Putin’s proposed changes to the constitution that could allow him to stay in power for a further 16 years were in line with Russian law. The Labour Party Leadership Contest drew to a close. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both tested positive for Coronavirus. Downing Street started daily briefings on the Coronavirus pandemic, which for many families became a key part of each day as they hoped to find out more about the developing situation.

April 2020

World Learned How To Do It All From Home

Boris Johnson In Intensive Care: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital for tests, 10 days after testing positive for Coronavirus. His condition worsened, and he was moved into intensive care, during which time he was supported with oxygen but did not require the use of a ventilator. During this time, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stood in for the PM. After 4 days in ICU and then time on a low dependency ward, Mr Johnson was discharged. He returned to work at the end of the month.

Sir Keir Starmer elected Leader of the Labour Party: Sir Keir, who was Shadow Brexit Secretary and who had been an MP since 2015, was elected the new leader of the Labour Party following the departure of Jeremy Corbyn. In one of his first actions as Labour Leader, he wrote to the Board of Deputies of British Jews to reiterate his commitment to stamping out antisemitism within the Labour Party. He told the Government that a lockdown exit strategy was needed to keep the public trust and claimed that the Government had been too slow to put the country into lockdown.

Bizarre Treatment Advice: US President Donald Trump came under fire for suggesting research into whether Coronavirus might be treatable by injecting disinfectant into the body. Doctors and medical experts strongly warned against the unproven idea, saying it was ‘irresponsible’ and ‘dangerous’ and could kill people. The US President also seemed to suggest exposing patients’ bodies to UV lights.

Also in April… The world tried to get used to living and working in lockdown. The UK was urged to reconsider its position on a possible extension to Brexit trade talks amid the pandemic. There was speculation about the death of Kim Jong Un, which turned out to be incorrect. A 6.2% increase in the UK’s National Living Wage became effective, while the National Minimum Wage also increased. Scotland’s chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood resigned after it had emerged she had driven 44 miles to her second home during the lockdown. First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon advised people in Scotland to wear face coverings in enclosed spaces for the first time, such as on public transport and in shops.

May 2020

Restrictions Begin To Ease

Easing of Lockdown Measures: In the UK, lockdown measures started to be eased. Groups of up to six people were allowed to meet outside while observing social distancing measures and primary schools in England started to reopen for some year groups. Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the UK’s COVID Alerts System.

Lockdown Breaches: The Prime Minister’s chief adviser Dominic Cummings defended making a 260-mile trip to be near relatives during the Coronavirus lockdown, saying he did the ‘right thing’. The story, uncovered by journalists, sparked a major row and public anger. The story got worse when Mr Cummings said he had driven to Barnard Castle town with his wife and child as a test run to check his eyesight. Despite the uproar, Mr Cummings kept his job and was backed by Mr Johnson. The Cabinet Office launched an investigation after the incident led someone to tweet the following from the UK Civil Service Twitter account: ‘Arrogant and offensive. Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?’ Labour MP Rosie Duffield apologised and stood down from her role as an opposition whip after admitting to breaching lockdown measures. Top government scientist Professor Neil Ferguson resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) after reports that he had broken lockdown rules in order to meet his married lover.

Concern Over Government Messaging: The Government’s Coronavirus messaging changed from ‘Stay At Home, Protect The NHS, Save Lives’ to ‘Stay Alert, Control The Virus & Save Lives’. People raised the point that it’s difficult to ‘Stay Alert’ to an invisible virus and many people later claimed that lockdown breaches by key figures and poor messaging may have led to higher case rates of the virus.

Captain Tom Moore: It was announced that WWII veteran and NHS fundraiser Captain Tom Moore was to receive a knighthood. The Captain had set himself a target of raising £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 lengths of his 25m garden in Bedfordshire before he turned 100 years old at the end of April. Instead, he walked more than 100 lengths and had raised more than £30 million for NHS Charities Together by his Birthday. Mr Moore also recorded a cover of You’ll Never Walk Alone with Michael Ball, which went straight to number one in the iTunes chart.

Also in May… Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin went to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced that the government had surpassed its target of 100,000 tests a day for COVID-19 by the end of April, though some accused the government of changing the criteria and moving the goalposts on the target. US President Donald Trump announced that the United States would be “terminating its relationship” with the World Health Organization.

June 2020

World Demands Race Equality

Black Lives Matter: Protests erupted around the world following the killing of unarmed black man, George Floyd, at the hands of four police officers in Minnesota. The protests came to represent a reaction against a system that often sees different criminal justice outcomes for African Americans, with the protesters calling for fundamental systemic change in order to redress the balance of the United States (and world) criminal justice system. Police in the United States were criticised for using excessive force in protests, and news reporters were arrested and shot at with rubber bullets. President Trump threatened to deploy the military to stop the protests. In London, protesters broke lockdown rules to clash with police, and while most protests were peaceful, some turned violent with bottles, flares and other items thrown on the streets of the capital and towards police and Downing Street. The Black Lives Matter movement also saw huge debates startup about the display of statues of slave traders and others who had been unethical or committed crimes in the past. In Bristol, a statue of merchant Edward Colston was torn down by protestors, while statues in London’s Parliament Square were defaced.

Leicester Goes Into Lockdown: Local lockdown measures were implemented in Leicester and surrounding areas. The measures were the first of their kind for a city in the UK and came after the number of Coronavirus cases in Leicester had continued to rise. Meanwhile, Downing Street announced that its Coronavirus briefings would no longer take place on a daily basis. Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed the UK was ‘winning the battle’ against COVID-19 but had work to do – it was announced there had been no deaths in London or Scotland hospitals from COVID-19 for the first day since the believed peak of the virus. The wearing of face coverings on public transport in England became mandatory on 15 June.

Also in June… Iran issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump over the killing of top Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani. Sir Mark Sedwill, the United Kingdom’s top civil servant, confirmed that he would step down from his role in September. It was announced that the Department for International Development (DfID) would be merged into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Six people were injured in a stabbing attack in Glasgow at the Park Inn Hotel. The attacker was shot dead by police at the scene, and the attack was not treated as terror-related. The fourth round of UK-EU future relationship talks got underway. The Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey was sacked by Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer for sharing an article containing an “anti-Semitic conspiracy theory”. For the first time, children and young people from Wales were given the opportunity to ask the opening questions in the Welsh Government’s press conference with the Education Minister, Kirsty Williams.

July 2020

More Reopenings & Eat Out To Help Out Launched

‘Super Saturday’ In England: Hairdressers and barbers, restaurants and pubs, outdoor gyms, playgrounds, cinemas, museums, libraries, galleries, hotels and other accommodation reopened for the first time in months in most parts of England on 4 July. The public was urged to use ‘common sense’ in managing the freedoms. Many venues did not reopen, with many chains in the hospitality sector announcing closures due to the economic impacts of the pandemic. Leisure centres and indoor gyms asked for more support as they remained closed. At the end of the month, restrictions were tightened for much of Northern England to stop indoor inter-household mixing.

Eat Out To Help Out: The Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the new ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme to help support the reopening of the hospitality industry. Everyone in the UK, including children, was able to use a 50% discount (up to £10 per meal) at participating UK cafes, pubs and restaurants on every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the month of August 2020. The scheme arguably made Rishi Sunak more popular amongst the public, though it was later blamed by some for a rise in Coronavirus cases.

Russia Report: The long-awaited ‘Russia Report’ from Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was published. Amongst a number of findings, the report found that ‘The UK Government have actively avoided looking for evidence that Russia interfered” in the 2016 EU Referendum.’ The report was released after Julian Lewis became the new chair of the ISC. Mr Lewis was sacked as a Conservative MP for defeating the government’s choice to chair the committee, Chris Grayling. It was alleged that the government wanted to install Grayling to prevent the release of the already delayed Russia report – a document that was completed in the run-up to the 2019 general election.

Also In July… Wigan Athletic Football Club entered administration due to the ‘significant impact’ of the Coronavirus pandemic on the club’s finances. The Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new ‘Kickstart Scheme’ to directly pay employers to create new jobs for any 16-24 year old at risk of long-term unemployment. The UK Government unveiled a new obesity strategy, urging the country to lose weight, following a COVID-19 ‘wake up call’. It was announced that Manchester United and England footballer Marcus Rashford was to receive an honorary doctorate from The University of Manchester in recognition of his sporting achievements and campaign against child poverty in which he forced a Government U-turn on free school meals during the pandemic.

August 2020

Explosion Shockwave Felt In Beirut & Far Beyond

Beirut Blast: 204 people were killed, and many thousands were injured in a major explosion in Beirut. A large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the city’s port exploded, resulting in a shockwave that was felt across the city and beyond, including 180 miles away in Cyprus. The UK and other countries offered support in the wake of the disaster. Protests erupted across Lebanon in the aftermath against the government for its failure to prevent the disaster.

Exam Chaos: There was frustration, anger and uproar across the country, including protests calling for Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to resign due to chaos over the Summer 2020 exam series. Due to the pandemic, exams did not take place, and grades were to be awarded based on teacher assessed grades. However, a controversial algorithm then downgraded nearly 40% of A-Level grades, with some students receiving ‘E’ grades having expected ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ grades. GCSEs and A-Levels were eventually based purely off assessment centre grades, or the algorithm grade if this was higher, following a significant U-turn. Universities had to try and adapt to the crisis, but for some students, it was too late to pursue their original choices, with course spaces already filled.

Russia Approves Vaccine, Despite Ongoing Trials: Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia had become the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against COVID-19. Trials of the vaccine on humans had been ongoing for less than two months, and the regulatory approval in the country came ahead of phase III trials of the vaccine.

Also in August… The European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that a post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and the EU “seems unlikely”, following the conclusion of the seventh round of post-Brexit negotiations. The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon announced that bars, restaurants and pubs in Aberdeen must close after a cluster of Coronavirus cases raised concerns about a wider outbreak. Douglas Ross won the leadership for the Scottish Conservatives, while Sir Ed Davey was elected the new leader of the Liberal Democrats. In Belarus, President Aleksander Lukashenko announced victory in the presidential election, but protests erupted on the nation’s streets after accusations of vote-rigging and corruption.

September 2020

Schools Returns & Tracing App Launches

Schools Return: Children returned to the classroom, many for the first time in months. A ‘bubble’ approach was taken in most schools, with no mixing allowed between different year groups.

New Restrictions: Meanwhile, Boris Johnson urged people to limit their social contact with others as much as possible and introduced a new ‘Rule of Six’. However, he later confused this in a gaffe and was criticised for doing so, as restrictions became more confusing and different in different areas of the UK. #borishasfailedtheuk trended on Twitter, while Deputy Labour Leader Angela Rayner accused the PM of being “grossly incompetent”. Boris Johnson accused Sir Keir Starmer of being indecisive over whether to support the Government on different policies. It was announced that hospitality businesses would have to close at 10pm each evening, as a new measure to tackle the spread of the virus.

NHS COVID-19 App Launches: The NHS COVID-19 app launched in England and Wales with the ability to notify people if they had been in close contact with someone who also had the app and went on to test positive for the Coronavirus. The app did not hold personal information, such as users’ names or addresses. The launch of the app came following technical problems with the first version of the app, which was developed earlier in the year.

Also In September… Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced plans for an extra £2.7 billion in funding for Health and Social Care to support the nation through the winter with Coronavirus. Simon Case was appointed as the new Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service. Marcus Rashford formed a new task force, including some of the UK’s biggest supermarket brands to try and help tackle child food poverty in the UK. The first 2020 Presidential debate in the US was branded by some as ‘the worst in history’ as President Trump and Joe Biden spent much of the debate talking over each other.

October 2020

Tiers Introduced In England

New System of Tiered Restrictions: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a three-tiered local lockdown system to tackle rises in cases of COVID-19 in England. The North of England faced the toughest restrictions, and there were arguments between Northern leaders and Downing Street over the level of financial support to accompany Tier 3 restrictions. In particular, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham earned the title ‘King of the North’ from the press and social media users. At the end of the month on Halloween, Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown in England from 5 November to 2 December.

President Trump Hospitalised: US President Donald Trump was treated with experimental drugs in hospital after falling ill with COVID-19. The President had previously refused on occasions to wear a face mask and had attended rallies with large numbers of people. Ahead of being discharged from people, he tweeted, ‘Don’t be afraid of Covid’. At this point, around 210,000 people had died in the United States from the deadly virus.

Jacinda Ardern Wins New Zealand Election: New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, was returned to office in a resounding victory over her rivals. Ardern, who became Prime Minister in 2017, had been leading a minority government, with her Labour Party coming second in New Zealand’s previous general election in 2017. Arden has achieved significant success as PM, particularly in tackling the Coronavirus pandemic.

Also In October… The European Union began legal proceedings against the UK due to the UK Government refusing to remove sections from its controversial Internal Market Bill. Boris Johnson laid out plans at the virtual Conservative Party Conference for how his Government aimed to ‘Build Back Better’ following the Coronavirus pandemic and promote a ‘Clean Powered Future.’ Wales entered a two-week fire-break lockdown. Under the lockdown measures, non-essential shops were forced to close, and under rules set by the Welsh Government which inadvertently prompted widespread anger, shops that stayed open such as supermarkets could not sell items deemed to be ‘non-essential’.

November 2020

Changes In Personnel

Joe Biden Elected 46th US President: Joe Biden was elected the next President of the United States after defeating incumbent Donald Trump. Trump refused to concede defeat and made baseless claims about voter fraud, after millions used postal voting amid the pandemic. The result took several days to be called by outlets, though Biden was eventually declared to have won 306 electoral college votes. Biden is set to move to the White House in January 2021.

Cummings and Goings: Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister, Dominic Cummings left his role at Number 10 Downing Street with immediate effect, just hours after a Government minister indicated Mr Cummings would leave his role by the end of the year. Director of Communications Lee Cain also left Downing Street, with there believed to have been a row between the three individuals. Meanwhile, the UK Government’s independent adviser on standards Sir Alex Allan resigned after Boris Johnson backed Home Secretary Priti Patel following a bullying inquiry. Foreign Office Minister Baroness Sugg quit following a cut to the foreign aid budget, and Minister of Industry Nadhim Zahawi was given the responsibility of leading on the UK deployment of Coronavirus vaccines.

Mass Testing In Liverpool: Around 2,000 military personnel moved into Pontins in Southport in order to roll-out a huge pilot scheme of rapid turnaround COVID-19 tests in the city of Liverpool. The city’s population was offered regular Coronavirus testing under the pilot.

Plans Announced For Christmas: Ministers representing the four nations of the UK agreed on a broad set of measures to help people visit each other over the Christmas period. Under the original plans, households across the UK would have been able to join with two other households during a five-day window from 23-27 December to form a Christmas ‘bubble’.

Also In November… The Labour Party described anti-vaccination content on social media as ‘poison’ and called on the government to bring forward laws that could see financial and criminal penalties for companies that fail to remove such content. Former Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was reinstated to the party following a decision in October to suspend him; however, the whip was not reinstated, meaning he could no longer sit as a Labour MP in the House of Commons. It was announced that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in the UK would be banned from 2030, as a 10 Point Plan to tackle climate change was unveiled by Boris Johnson.

December 2020

UK Starts Vaccine Rollout & New Virus Variant Announced

Vaccine Rollout Begins: The UK began the biggest vaccination programme in NHS history as the first patients received the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Margaret Keenan was the first person in the world to be given the vaccine, being given the injection at 06:31 on 8 December 2020. The second patient and first man to receive the vaccine was William Shakespeare, an 81-year-old from Warwickshire. Later in the month, a second vaccine produced by Oxford University and AstraZeneca was also approved and is set to be rolled out from January 2021.

Tighter Restrictions Amid New Variant: A new variant of COVID-19, thought to be around 70% more transmissible than the previous variant of the virus, was announced in the UK. International concern over the new variant led to countries including France closing their borders with the UK, causing chaos at Dover and leaving thousands of lorries stranded in the Christmas period. The new variant was linked to sharp rises in cases, leading to a new Tier 4 being announced in England, equivalent to the November lockdown. By the end of the month, 77% of the country was in Tier 4. The return of schools in January 2021 was delayed. Governments had to u-turn on their previously announced plans for an easing of restrictions over Christmas, reducing it to just Christmas Day itself. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland entered new national lockdowns along with countries in other parts of the world.

Post-Brexit Trade Deal Agreed: After months of difficult negotiations, the UK and European Union agreed on a post-Brexit trade deal on Christmas Eve. It came just days before the end of the transition period and after the UK left the European Union on 31 January 2020. The deal was debated by MPs on 30 December, being passed into law just hours before entering effect on 31 December 2020.

Also in December… Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson was arrested and suspended from Labour Party. In a statement released by Merseyside Police, it was said that five men had been arrested as part of an investigation into the awarding of building and development contracts in Liverpool. Retail group Arcadia entered administration, and it was also announced that all 124 Debenhams stores would close after efforts failed to rescue the struggling retailer. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new target to reduce the UK’s emissions by at least 68% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

In 2020, the world tragically lost 1.8 million people to the COVID-19 Coronavirus. Our thoughts must go out to everyone single person affected by the virus, especially those who have lost loved ones, those who have been battling the virus, and those that have been tackling it.

Whether the world will ever fully return to pre-pandemic ‘normal’ is uncertain, but as 2020 comes to an end and 2021 begins, there is progress with vaccines and treatment, there is increasing understanding of the science and there is hope for a brighter future.

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