JAN MOIR: If this is finding freedom, count me in Harry! 

Another exciting week in the crazy lives of the exiled Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Honestly, I hope this fabulous soap opera of entitlement and tatty pomp, rippled with a long raspberry of rudery in the direction of the old country, lasts forever and ever.

First, their Finding Freedom biography was published and what an enjoyable read it is.

Nestled between precise details of every perceived slight and snub suffered over the last terrible four years was the kind of gold-plated information that left no one in any doubt about their credentials as perfect human beings.

I particularly liked wee baby Meghan asking her mother ‘what can we do about the homeless?’ before returning to her plate of rusks.

Not to mention the heart-rending factoid that Harry ‘worries what others think of him’ and that his favourite film is The Lion King.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bought a new nine-bedroom and 16-bathroom mansion

Of course it is! One can see that the prince identifies with Simba the lion cub; another dopey ginger who is initially denied his birthright and gets blamed for stuff he did not do.

Second, we discovered that the Sussexes have bought a new home and have been living in Santa Barbara since June.

I sincerely hope their fugitive flight from oppression is finally over, along with their days of mansion-hopping.

They seem to have landed on their feet, complete with wet and dry saunas, in the ten-star luxury we all know they love.

The mansion has a torrid history, having been previously owned by a Russian oligarch accused of threatening to murder his wife. But who cares about that kind of detail when a couple of mill have been knocked off the asking price?

In sunny Montecito, everything makes sense. Well, a sort of sense. A move to the sun-dappled gorgeousness of the area known as the American Riviera?

That must have been the plan all along — and why not?

Here, amid their sweeping lawns, tiered rose gardens, Italian cypress trees, lavender bushes, 100-year-old olive trees, tennis court, tea house, children’s cottage, swimming pool, guest house and the five-car garage that surround their nine-bed, 16 bathroom villa on their eight-acre estate, let us hope Harry and Meghan have found the simplicity and peace they crave.

Moving here is the equivalent of slipping into a mansion in Portofino or a villa with beach views in St Tropez.

It is divine, with a lovely climate and shops that sell designer Goop-ish leather clogs, oatmeal cashmere hoodies and bottles of special £20 detergents for washing them.

Perusing the new Sussex digs, I did feel a pang of envy for the first time — for who could not love the yellow Spanish-style chimney pots, the windows shaded by striped awnings, the blue pool and the outdoor play area for little Archie?

Who wouldn’t want to slide down that helter skelter of five-ply privilege and endless luxe? Colour me green and count me in.

The couple now have the Santa Ynez Mountains behind them and the Pacific Ocean in front of them, not to mention the dusty drear of the Royal Family behind them and a sparkling future in front of them. Do we dare to dream that they might stop moaning?

The lovely home cost just over £11 million. They bought it with their own money, which is a miracle of loaves and fishes proportions, given that Harry’s only paid job was in the Army and Meghan appears to have bought into a movie star’s lifestyle on a TV actress’s wages.

Their neighbours are Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres, Ariana Grande and Gwyneth Paltrow —whose individual earning power takes them into a different league from Harry and Meghan.

Apparently the couple ‘feel proud to have struck out on their own’ and are claiming that they bought it with a mortgage and without any help from Prince Charles — which raises more questions than it answers.

How did they get a mortgage? Or manage to prove their earning potential for a start?

The pair purchased the sprawling property, which sits on 5.4 acres of land, for just over $11 million which includes tennis court, swimming pool, guest house and the five-car garage

The pair purchased the sprawling property, which sits on 5.4 acres of land, for just over $11 million which includes tennis court, swimming pool, guest house and the five-car garage

I wish them all the best in this exciting new beginning — but wouldn’t it have been more prudent to pay back the taxpayers’ money they owe for Frogmore Cottage before splashing out on this no-expenses spared crib?

They wasted £2.4 million of our hard-earned on a home we now learn they had little intention of ever living in, long-term.

Before the organic paint in the nursery was dry, it had been abandoned for pastures new — while we picked up the bill.

All those mature trees planted at great expense to ensure their privacy, the air conditioning, the central heating?

Left to rot while they pay it back on the drip — a measly £18,000 a month back over 11 years. It is insulting, to every single one of us.

Paying it back as soon as possible would have earned them so much goodwill. Instead here they are, splashing out on themselves and California dreaming.

Now in the privacy of his own home — his first — Harry can get up in his Zoom pulpit and lecture the world to his heart’s content. This week his little homily was on racism — and how we can all do more to help, every single one of us.

I would have more respect for ol’ Simba if he admitted to his own silly mistakes in the past — calling an Army colleague the P-word and wearing a Nazi uniform to a fancy dress party — but he does not. He can only lecture, not learn.

The couple have certainly moved to the right place — not only has the local council declared racism ‘a public health crisis,’ the local pizzeria sells cauliflower-crust pizza and even the soup kitchen is organic — with lectin-free chicken bone broth being a particular speciality.

Meghan will be down there with her ladle before you can say: is the turmeric freshly grated?

What the new book and this new move have proved is that the Sussexes are bridge-burners extraordinaire. They focus on where they are going, not where they have been.

Despite everything, the sincere wish of many Brits is that it all works out for them — not least because they have torched every route and friendship, every family tie and bond of kinship that leads back to their old life.

Now they may have mountain and ocean views along with hot and cold running luxury, but with a debt of honour still outstanding, the suspicion remains that they still cannot see the wood for the trees.

A luvvie, yes, but he’s the best Bond

Bless me, father, for I have sinned. It has been nearly four months since I last found an excuse to write about my hero Daniel Craig.

Now talk of who is and who is not the best James Bond has brought me back to my pet subject.

Off-screen, Daniel, above, can be a right pain. He is always complaining about playing 007, as if the whole thing were beneath him.

As a survey reveals who is Bond fans' favourite. Jan Moir backs Daniel Craig as the best

As a survey reveals who is Bond fans’ favourite. Jan Moir backs Daniel Craig as the best

Some say he has ruined Bond. They want to see the humour and silly gadgets brought back.

These fools prefer the arched eyebrow of Roger Moore and the hirsute masculinity of Sean Connery. Yet Daniel Craig is the only Bond who looks like he really means it.

His Bond ripples with a kind of darkness and patriotic fervour that are irresistible. Unlike any of the others, I believe he really could always get the girl and beat up the baddie. In addition, his Bond cares about Queen and country, which makes me care about him.

He may be a ghastly thesp in real life but on screen, he is a hero. And if you think he is a bit too right-on for comfort, one can only shudder at the thought of what comes next.

The authors of Finding Freedom do not claim Meghan and Harry didn’t collaborate on the book, only that they were not interviewed.

What does that mean? I suspect every oleaginous word was sanctioned by them.

Take the gratuitous swipes at Meghan’s ex-husband, Trevor Engelson. The film producer has always refused to talk about her.

Yet in the book he is dismissed as ‘brash’; as someone who did not ‘support Meghan enough’ and a husband who ‘liked being the breadwinner’.

What an utter bounder, I don’t think. When he didn’t take Meghan to the Oscars in 2013, they concluded he ‘didn’t want to share the limelight’.

Six months later, they were divorced. All this could be interpreted, by their own standards, as bullying and cruel.

What about Trevor’s feelings and mental health, kids? Or do they only count if it is someone you care about?

Take a jacket for sunbathing, Carrie

Boris Johnson is having a vacay in Scotland this year. Holidaying in Scotland is one of those things — like burying your relatives in the garden — that is only posh when posh people do it.

For everyone else it is hope over experience, a poor plan B and, in the case of Trump Turnberry, quite literally the last resort.

However, here are my tips on how to survive in my homeland during August.

I. The bad news: the Edinburgh Festival usually means the capital’s streets are full of tourists, mime artists, determined buskers, everyone on Mock The Week and comedian Arthur Smith.

In addition, all the restaurants have been booked up for months. The good news: this year all events are taking place digitally, if at all — hurrah!

Boris Johnson's fiancee Carrie Symonds pictured on a yacht while holidaying (file photo)

Boris Johnson’s fiancee Carrie Symonds pictured on a yacht while holidaying (file photo)

Locals searching for an upside to Covid have found a reason to cheer at last. And if Boris wants a table at The Scran & Scallie to eat Orkney scallops or bacon-wrapped grouse, all he has to do is pick up the phone.

II. Midgies, avoidance of. Midgies are small, pesky, annoying creatures, also called ‘Sturgeons’ for obvious reasons.

During the twilight hours from June to mid-August they are impossible to avoid.

Try proper insecticides if you like, but the only thing that really works is wearing a pop sock on your head. Do not venture near any banks while thus attired, or you may cause alarm.

III. Weather-wise, look on the bright side. A tourist website for Nordic visitors points out that ‘the wonderful thing about Scotland’s weather is that it also rarely gets too warm in the summer to stop you enjoying all the outdoor activities and sightseeing’. That’s one way of putting it!

IV. Boris and Carrie, pictured left on a previous holiday, would do well to bring a warm sweater or fleece, waterproof jacket and stout walking boots. These are a must for sunbathing anywhere north of Perth.

Pop star Rita Ora visits fashion model Kate Moss's table in Formentera, Spain

Pop star Rita Ora visits fashion model Kate Moss’s table in Formentera, Spain

Every summer, millions of us suffer from the annual malaise called holiday-itis.

Symptoms include furious itching, turning green and red, then segueing back to pure green again before bursting into tears and demanding a strong drink.

Holiday-itis is caused by overexposure to everyone else’s holiday snaps on social media, while personally remaining marooned and working in a hot, sticky city.

Rita Ora (pictured) and Kate Moss on Formentera, the Beckhams tanning their tattoos in Puglia, Cindy Crawford in Miami, J.Lo in the Hamptons… it’s all too much, particularly in a pandemic. However there are one or two exceptions.

These include the cheering sight of Dame Joan Collins and Brigitte Macron in their swimming cossies, both looking marvellous despite having ten grandchildren between them, not to mention a surfeit of decades.

How do they do it? Brigitte eats a mixture of ten fruits and vegetables every day, while Joan drinks one vodka martini with dinner and always wears sun protection. Shall we have what they are having? I think so!

TOM UTLEY I thought our four sons would break the bank – until we got Minnie

 At the start of the lockdown in Bogota, Colombia, where the rules were much stricter than in Britain, our youngest son was stopped in the park by a policeman, who demanded to know: ‘Where’s your dog?’ He replied that he didn’t have one.

‘Then go home and stay there,’ said the officer, who explained that only dog- walkers were allowed in the park. Everyone else had to stay at home, except to buy essentials.

Well, our young Harry, who was in Bogota teaching English under the auspices of the British Council, didn’t much fancy the idea of spending what was left of his Colombian adventure cooped up inside with his flat-mates.

So he hit upon a solution. He would find a neighbour with a dog and volunteer to walk it every day. Either that or, in the last resort, he’d have to acquire a four-legged friend of his own.

Prices for popular dog breeds have risen by up to 90 per cent since March 23 and Dogs Trust warned that pet smugglers have been doing a roaring trade during lockdown

Just one problem: the entire population of Bogota appeared to have had the same idea. Indeed, he found that the dog-owners of the city were deluged with offers to take their exhausted pooches for walks.

As for the idea of adopting his own pet, a moment’s reflection convinced him that this was a non-starter.

For one thing, there was the heart-breaking question of what he would do with the poor brute when the time came for him to return to London. As a dog-lover since his earliest childhood, he couldn’t bear the thought of a forced parting.

Demand

There was also the fact, as he quickly discovered, that demand for dogs in Bogota was so high during lockdown that prices had gone through the roof — far beyond the reach of his modest stipend as an English teacher.

And now it seems that the same thing is happening here at home. A study by the Dogs Trust rescue charity, reported in yesterday’s paper, finds that prices for popular breeds have risen by up to 90 per cent since the Government brought the shutters down on our social lives on March 23.

For example, the average asking price for a French bulldog has soared by 52 per cent to £1,905. A Dachshund puppy, which would have set you back £973 in March, cost a whopping 89 per cent more in June, at an average of £1,838.

Meanwhile, Google searches for ‘find a puppy’ have shot up by no less than 166 per cent.

In short, other businesses may be struggling to survive in these extraordinary times. But if this study is to be believed, the market for puppies is enjoying a record boom.

So much so, warns the Dogs Trust, that pet smugglers have been doing a roaring trade during lockdown, despite the rigid restrictions on international movement.

At the UK border, this one charity alone has intercepted 43 puppies, illegally imported from Central and Eastern Europe, with a street value estimated at £80,000. It has also rescued 12 heavily pregnant bitches, which among them have produced 56 puppies, worth some £100,000 to the dog-runners.

As for the reason why demand has been so high, we can’t put it all down to the Government’s restrictions on our freedom. Even before our lockdown was relaxed last month, we in Britain were graciously permitted our daily exercise in the park, with or without a canine companion.

But it’s surely fair to guess that many have been drawn to dog-ownership as a means of relieving the loneliness of isolation at home.

I thank my lucky stars that we took delivery of our rescue puppy, Minnie - a tiny, five-month-old homeless mongrel: part Jack Russell, part Dachshund, with almost certainly a dash of something else in the mix -  a full year before the present boom began

I thank my lucky stars that we took delivery of our rescue puppy, Minnie – a tiny, five-month-old homeless mongrel: part Jack Russell, part Dachshund, with almost certainly a dash of something else in the mix –  a full year before the present boom began 

Meanwhile, the price surge must also have something to do with the recent (and long-overdue) crackdown on British puppy farms — at too many of which, breeding bitches were exploited to the point of cruelty.

But whatever the explanation, I thank my lucky stars that we took delivery of our rescue puppy, Minnie, a full year before the present boom began.

At the time, I reckoned the fee charged by Battersea Dogs and Cats Home — £185, if I remember rightly — was decidedly steep for a tiny, five-month-old homeless mongrel: part Jack Russell, part Dachshund, with almost certainly a dash of something else in the mix.

But I now realise how reasonable it was — particularly since the fee included a full veterinary and behavioural assessment, microchipping, vaccinations, a collar, an ID tag and a lead.

Affection

Enough to say that, besotted with the little dog as I’ve become (and I flatter myself that she fully reciprocates my feelings), I now see that she was the bargain of the decade, worth her weight in gold.

Indeed, she’s been a source of constant amusement and affection during the lockdown, keeping us both busy with her ceaseless demands for walks, and her tireless enthusiasm for chasing (and losing) tennis balls and tearing the stuffing out of her squeaky toys. That’s not to mention her hilarious run-arounds with the neighbours’ beautiful Bengal cat, which towers over her and wins all their disputes about territorial rights to our garden.

But a word of warning to those now wondering whether to join my family among the 26 per cent of British households who own a dog.

Never mind those extortionate sums now being demanded for the privilege of giving a home to a furry friend. Believe me, the purchase price is only the beginning of the expense. Even where a bargain-basement mongrel is concerned, you’ll quickly find the bills mounting up.

Take Minnie, a veritable Houdini of her species who, during her early months with us, kept escaping through the tiniest gaps in the crumbling wooden fence that ran down the left-hand side of our garden.

Every time I succeeded in blocking one escape route, she would find another. After weeks of this, we decided we could no longer spend our lives traipsing shame-faced round to the neighbours to retrieve her.

So I paid for the whole fence to be replaced with a spanking new, Minnie-proof structure. There was no change from £1,000. Yet, no sooner had I coughed up for this than she mastered the art of scaling the chicken-wire fence on the other side of the garden, scrambling up and over like an SAS man on an army assault course.

I couldn’t very well ask our neighbours to finance new fortifications — although, strictly speaking, the fence on that side of the garden is their responsibility. So bang went another few hundred quid.

Biting

But still the expense of dog-ownership keeps mounting. A picky eater, Minnie turns her nose up at anything but the priciest brands of dog food. As for her other needs, I dread to think how much I’ve spent on dog-walkers, on those days when Harry was in Colombia and Mrs U and I were both at work.

A word of warning to those now wondering whether to join my family among the 26 per cent of British households who own a dog. Never mind those extortionate sums now... the purchase price is only the beginning of the expense

A word of warning to those now wondering whether to join my family among the 26 per cent of British households who own a dog. Never mind those extortionate sums now… the purchase price is only the beginning of the expense

Then there are the baskets and comfort blankets, the anti-barking collars, the harnesses (three, so far, after she chewed through the clasps), pet insurance premiums, training leads and squeaky toys, which last her only a few hours before she eviscerates them.

And now Minnie has devised a new way of breaking the Utley bank. A few weeks ago, she started scratching herself compulsively and biting her fur so hard that she developed bald patches on her back.

So I took her to the vet, who declared that she had some sort of allergy. I was given anti-itching pills, a cone to put round Minnie’s neck to stop her scratching, a tube of steroid cream, with plastic gloves to wear when applying it, canine eye drops, a course of antibiotics, a large can of flea spray for our carpets and furniture, worming pills … and a bill for £204.86.

A fortnight later, Minnie began scratching herself again. So back to the vet we went, to be told that she would need blood tests to establish the nature of her allergy. Though these might well be inconclusive, they would cost ‘roughly £600’. With great trepidation, I await a verdict on whether this will be covered by her insurance. But if I know insurance companies, the answer will be ‘No’.

Let would-be owners beware. Before we acquired this four-legged light of our lives, I reckoned our four sons were the most expensive investment I’d ever make. Minnie seems determined to prove me wrong.

CRAIG BROWN: It’s top spot for Lord Dilyn of Barking!

House of Lords, August 13 2060 Public Statue Bill — Second Reading.

Baroness Katie Price: I call the noble Lord, Lord Beckham of Brooklyn. For what it’s worth.

Lord Beckham: My Lords, I have been distressed to learn of plans for the removal of the joint statue to my late parents, Lord David and Lady Victoria Beckham, which is currently situated in Parliament Square. 

They were both highly valued members of this chamber, and to remove their statue in this current wave of ‘political correctness’, simply because they spent what is now deemed an unacceptable amount of money on clothes, shoes and lifestyle trinkets, is nothing short of a travesty.

Baroness Price: Whatever. I call the noble Baroness, Lady Halliwell of Watford.

Baroness Halliwell: My Lords, at the grand old age of 88, and as the last remaining Spice Girl, I would respectfully remind the noble Lord that, for all his late mother’s many talents, which did not, sadly, include singing or performing, she unfortunately expended too much money on handbags, foreign travel, cosmetics and home furnishings. 

So it is with deep regret that, in the current economic climate, I support the decision to remove the statue of her and her late husband.

Who could be filling this chamber in 2060? CRAIG BROWN imagines a future in which today’s celebrities are the lords of tomorrow

Baroness Price: Let’s face it, I never liked her, not after what she said about my boobs. What a liberty. I call the noble Lord Cowell of Los Angeles, London and Juan-Les-Pins.

Lord Eric Cowell: My Lords, the removal of the Beckham statue to the new Museum of Folly, complete with explanatory notes, means that there will be an empty plinth in Parliament Square.

Might I, with your permission, Lady Speaker, propose a statue of my late father, Sir Simon Cowell, who is now acknowledged as one of the greatest giants of our island story?

Without his extraordinary influence, this Upper Chamber would be sadly deprived of many of my fellow Lords and Ladies, including My Lords Murs and Styles, and Baronesses Cole and Pinnock of Little Mix.

I have left sketches for the proposed statue, complete with overturned electric bicycle in burnished gold, in the Library of the House of Lords, for My Noble Lords to study at their leisure.

Baroness Price: Tell me about it! I call the noble Baroness, Lady Toffolo of Chelsea.

Baroness Toffolo of Chelsea: My Lords, I’m now 65 years young, but with plenty left to contribute! Let’s go for it, guys! So what about a statue of my old chum the late, great Sir Stanley Johnson, who was one of the great pioneers of reality television?

The future of parliament square? Pictured: David Beckham poses next to a statue of himself playing for LA Galaxy football team in Los Angeles, May 2019

The future of parliament square? Pictured: David Beckham poses next to a statue of himself playing for LA Galaxy football team in Los Angeles, May 2019

Baroness Price: I call the noble Lord, Lord Gallagher of Madchester.

Lord Gallagher: My Lords, my late father, Sir Liam, whose illustrious career culminated in his appointment as the British Ambassador to the United States, would wish me to point out that the late former Prime Minister, Lord Johnson of Exmoor, erected a statue of his father to replace the statue of Lord Nelson on what had been Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square.

This was, of course, after Lord Nelson was condemned for inappropriate behaviour towards Lady Hamilton and others, including a Mr Hardy.

Might I suggest that what is now the Johnson Column be renamed the Gallagher Column, and topped with a statue of Sir Liam successfully slaying his vanquished brother, Sir Noel, with a broken beer-glass?

Baroness Price: Blimey. I call the noble Lords, Lords Ant and Dec.

Lord Ant: My Lords, might I remind you that the lions in Trafalgar Square have already had to go…

Lord Dec: … after multiple historic allegations of pouncing, roaring, clawing and mauling came to light.

Lord Ant: … and their plinths were taken by four of the most illustrious, high-achieving domestic animals this nation has ever known, including Dilyn the Dog, who made his mark on Downing Street in the early 2020s, before being appointed editor of The Evening Standard.

Pictured: Dilyn, pet dog of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds, and possible future statue to replace the lions in Trafalgar Square, perhaps?

Pictured: Dilyn, pet dog of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Carrie Symonds, and possible future statue to replace the lions in Trafalgar Square, perhaps? 

Lords Ant and Dec: Cheers guys!

Baroness Price: One hundred per cent. I call my noble Lord, Lord Barron Trump of Florida and Balmedie. Phwoar!

Lord Barron Trump: My Lords, I would suggest that this House should vote to fill the empty plinth in Parliament Square with a statue of my late father, the great President Donald Trump, who was such a friend to this country.

And might I make one final suggestion, My Lords? To save time and money, it could be an exact copy of his sculpture on Mount Rushmore, only twice the size. 

City Editor ALEX BRUMMER insists there are some uplifting signs 

You could almost hear the glee in the voices of certain newsreaders yesterday as it was revealed that under a Tory Government, Britain’s output had fallen by more than 20 per cent in the three months ending in June.

That not only plunges us into the worst recession since records began but makes the UK the worst-performing economy among the G7 richest nations.

Yes, it is deeply disturbing that lockdown has taken such a terrible toll and Chancellor Rishi Sunak is right to warn of tough times ahead. But there are reasons for optimism.

As the pandemic retreats, our remarkably resilient free-market economy is already showing signs of a bounce back — which is just what the Bank of England and Sunak have been counting on.

Yes, the nation may be about to enter a recession far deeper than that which followed the financial crisis of 2008, but we were prepared for it to some degree.

As the pandemic retreats, our remarkably resilient free-market economy is already showing signs of a bounce back — which is just what the Bank of England and Sunak have been counting on. Pictured: Chancellor Rishi Sunak puts up a ‘eat out to help out’ sign in a shop

The Treasury took extraordinary steps to ensure that as many jobs as possible were preserved and that even the smallest of enterprises had access to cheap and guaranteed bank credits.

Just over a decade ago, it was the big banks and the financial system that were bailed out by the taxpayer. This time, the Treasury has set caution aside and done its best to put citizens and small and medium-sized businesses first.

Uplifting

Sunak said it best himself in response to the alarming new data, reassuring the public that ‘nobody will be left without hope or opportunity’.

In recent weeks, amid the doom-laden forecasts of recession and a jobs catastrophe, what was easily missed is that recovery actually began in May, as Britain emerged warily from total lockdown.

Phoenix-like, output started its climb back, rising by 2.4 per cent, and in June gross domestic product (GDP) actually climbed by 8.7 per cent, a much better performance than most City economists predicted.

The reality is that even with more than three million people still on furlough and much of the workforce working from home, the UK’s recession has been and gone.

This is not like the Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s when the slump lingered through to the 1940s and World War II.

Indeed, the speed with which some sectors are returning to normal is uplifting. The shock in April when it was revealed that just 4,321 cars were sold across the UK was palpable. The latest data shows a very different picture.

New-car sales soared in July to 175,000, up 11 per cent on the same month in 2019. Admittedly, there is pent-up demand from lockdown but the consumer confidence needed for people to buy an expensive item is impressive.

Meanwhile, incentives to get the economy moving again in the Chancellor’s summer statement look to be working.

Much of the hospitality industry has been reinvigorated by Sunak’s ‘eat out to help out’ package, with some restaurateurs overwhelmed by bookings. In its first week, 10.5 million meals were claimed for under the scheme.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors reports a house-buying boom as a result of the stamp duty holiday on all homes costing up to £500,000, in a clear demonstration of how consumer and business-friendly taxation is supporting the economy.

But there is only so much government can do. Some employers have shown great complacency about scaling down home working and bringing people back to offices.

NatWest says its employees won’t return until January, while Google is letting staff work at home until July 2021.

The anecdotal view of many of Britain’s corporate chiefs I talk to is that home working has made no difference to productivity. I disagree.

Rebound

Elsewhere in Europe, the return to the workplace has been far swifter and this may be a factor in the better economic statistics for France, Italy and Germany.

The latest data suggests that across the economy, a combination of furlough, home working and social distancing in workplaces has been calamitous. Output per worker collapsed almost 20 per cent in the three months to June compared with the first quarter of the year, and 22 per cent year-on-year.

Economist Howard Archer of the EY Item Club (an economic forecasting group which uses the Treasury economic model) noted the risk is that Covid-19 over the first half of 2020 ‘has a lasting negative impact on productivity and UK growth potential’.

In other words, getting people back to their workplaces is critical if we are to continue our progress in recovering the £400 billion of lost production in the first half of the year.

That is not to dismiss the performance and ‘can-do’ attitude shown by the UK’s very best corporations.

Putting aside Russia’s claim to have developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, Britain’s life-sciences companies are among the world leaders in developing a properly peer-reviewed, tested and trialled vaccine.

Along side Oxford University's Jenner Institute, one of the UK's largest companies AstraZeneca is working on producing the first effective coronavirus vaccine

Along side Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, one of the UK’s largest companies AstraZeneca is working on producing the first effective coronavirus vaccine

AstraZeneca, working with Oxford University’s Jenner Institute, is well on its way to producing the first effective vaccine. When it ran out of patients to test in the UK as Covid-19 subsided, it moved the testing programme to Brazil and South Africa.

Together with Britain’s other world-class pharma company, GlaxoSmithKline, it has also set up production facilities across the world.

As soon as the vaccines gain regulatory approval, tens of millions, if not billions, of doses can be produced.

The contribution of our great research universities to the recovery reminds the rest of the world that we are more than a country of cafes, fast food joints and small shops.

The UK has excellent pharma, high-tech, creative and financial services industries. Production of Britain’s oldest hygiene brands, such as Dettol, Lifebuoy and Dove, has been ramped up worldwide in lockdown and will be big winners for UK earnings as Covid-19 underlines the value of basic sanitation.

There has been much debate about the shape of Britain’s recovery. The Bank of England’s chief economist Andrew Haldane has encouraged the idea of a ‘V’ shape — a quick rebound.

Willpower

Britain’s open economy and dependence on the service sector could make that difficult. Heathrow’s role as a world entrepot is still limited by travel restrictions that make it difficult for the UK’s engineers, architects, consultants and investment bankers to secure new orders and work with overseas clients.

But while the economy was 17.3 per cent smaller at the end of June than at the start of the year, early data for July suggest it could be just 10 to 15 per cent smaller by the end of that month.

There has been much debate about the shape of Britain’s recovery. The Bank of England’s chief economist Andrew Haldane has encouraged the idea of a ‘V’ shape — a quick rebound

There has been much debate about the shape of Britain’s recovery. The Bank of England’s chief economist Andrew Haldane has encouraged the idea of a ‘V’ shape — a quick rebound

So in just two months, a third of the slowdown has been recouped — and that with schools and universities closed and many people on the beach or working at home.

The first fruits of recovery are there to see. It may still feel very uncomfortable for another year or so, but with further monetary support from the Bank of England and tax breaks from the Chancellor, an end could be in sight.

The slump will leave scars in the shape of fewer jobs for 18 to 24-year-olds and abandoned premises on the High Street. But with the right inducements and willpower, there is every reason to believe there is a path back. 

STEPHEN GLOVER: Why do we tell migrants not to come to Britain, then make it easy for them to stay? 

Whenever migrants cross the English Channel in considerable numbers, as is happening at the moment, government politicians tend to employ two reach-me-down arguments.

One is to blame the French, who are declared shifty and generally unhelpful. If only they would keep their eye on the ball, it is said, fewer migrants would leave their shores for Britain.

The second response is to lay into the people smugglers, who provide rickety, often lethally vulnerable, boats at an extortionate cost to desperate people.

Target these evil merchants in human misery, and the problem will start to go away.

There is, of course, some truth in both points of view. The French authorities can be tricky and obstructive.

Group of young children, women, and a man, sat on the coast at Dungeness, Kent, last week

They were so yesterday, with Natacha Bouchart, mayor of Calais, absurdly describing British plans to blockade the Channel as a ‘declaration of maritime war’.

No less ridiculous was Labour’s suggestion that Home Secretary Priti Patel is ‘devoid of compassion’ for coming up with such proposals. Why can’t it produce come constructive ideas instead of carping?

And it’s also the case that people smugglers are indeed wicked, though no one has yet found a way to get rid of them.

Besides, some of the migrants crossing the Channel appear to be making their own arrangements.

What our politicians seldom do is to ask whether a large part of the problem might be of our own making.

There are idiotic inconsistencies in our policy so that migrants are encouraged to come here while being told to stay away.

Over 4,000 are estimated to have crossed the Channel so far this year.

Consider this. It’s said that only around one in 40 migrants who come to Britain illegally is being sent back at present.

One in 40! Isn’t this a strong incentive for such people to chance their arm?

If I were a young man from Iran or Syria sitting in a godforsaken camp near Calais, I would undoubtedly run the risk of crossing the Channel, in the knowledge that if I were intercepted by the authorities I would almost certainly be allowed to stay in Britain.

Last August, when migrants were already coming across the Channel in significant numbers — though they had not then reached the record of 235 in one day notched up a week ago today — Boris Johnson told anyone hoping to enter Britain: ‘We will send you back.’

Migrants know this is nearly the exact opposite of the truth. They almost certainly won’t be sent back.

According to the Home Office, at least 1,900 people arrived in small boats across the Channel last year, while about 125 were returned to European countries.

That’s approximately one in 15 being deported rather than the one in 40 I have seen quoted, but the odds are nonetheless very heavily in favour of being allowed to stay in the UK.

Group of migrants arrived on a vessel and picked up by Border Force patrols at Dover, Kent

Group of migrants arrived on a vessel and picked up by Border Force patrols at Dover, Kent

And not only stay. An adult arriving in this country receives £37.75 a week, a place to live and free NHS and hospital care.

Granted, most of us would struggle in such circumstances, but they are probably a lot more propitious than those in the often benighted countries the migrants have left behind.

Better, too, than France, where rules for access to healthcare for asylum seekers were tightened in January.

They now get free healthcare only if they have been resident for three months and have successfully applied for a ‘Puma’ health card by establishing their right to be in the country.

So why not take the risk and come here? Moreover, although migrants are usually not supposed to work while their cases are being considered, some do so in our vibrant black economy.

This is much more difficult to achieve in France, where the authorities insist on correct paperwork.

Though it pains me to agree with a French politician, Philippe Mignonet, deputy Mayor of Calais, is bang on the money when he accuses the Government of ‘hypocrisy’, though ‘inconsistency’ might be fairer.

Our position is to tell migrants they must on no account come here because their passage across the Channel is illegal, as well as dangerous. But if they show up in a boat a few miles from Dover, why, we will do our very best to house, and look after, them.

No doubt if the French authorities tried a bit harder — and it seems the Government is going to give them the £30 million they have demanded — they could limit the numbers of migrants, and perhaps arrest an occasional people smuggler.

But the problem would remain — which is that, despite huffing and puffing about illegality, the British Government is effectively hanging a banner over the White Cliffs of Dover which proclaims: ‘Migrants welcome here.’

May I suggest a solution? If the Government believes there are many bona fide asylum seekers in Calais — as it evidently does because it grants asylum to such a high proportion of them once they arrive on British soil — it should consider their applications in a calm and ordered way. In France.

This is indeed the recent proposal of Tony Smith, a former director-general of the UK Border Force. Only those approved in advance would be allowed to enter Britain and remain.

I’d go further. The Government should penalise those who ignore the proper procedures and attempt to come into the country illegally. In the circumstances I envisage, arriving as a migrant, having failed to apply for asylum via the official route, would be an automatic disqualification for admission.

Migrants can be seen being brought to Dover harbour by Border Force officials this morning

Migrants can be seen being brought to Dover harbour by Border Force officials this morning 

Some lawyers might howl in rage, and claim that such an arrangement contravenes our obligations under the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Britain is a signatory.

The Government could legitimately respond that, by setting up an application process in France, it was doing everything possible to consider the claims of legitimate asylum seekers.

One advantage of such an approach is that migrants wouldn’t be a drain on the British taxpayer while their applications were being considered. Nor could they disappear into the black economy.

The benefits of such a scheme would not just be practical, though. It would also be humane. Fewer migrants would attempt the dangerous Channel crossing if they believed their claims were being fairly considered in Calais — and if they knew that turning up in Dover would lead to their being instantly sent back to France.

Of course, the French government would have to agree to these new arrangements, and it’s not certain it would.

What would happen to migrants not granted asylum in the UK? Would France deport them?

But an imaginative new policy is overdue. Earlier this week, Boris Johnson called for a fresh look at laws which make it ‘very, very difficult’ to return migrants who have come to Britain ‘blatantly illegally’.

He appears to have realised that his undertaking of a year ago to send them back can’t be delivered.

We can go on criticising the French, and pointing out the evil of people smugglers. We can call out the Navy.

We can continue to offer a home to almost all migrants who turn up on our shores.

Or, as a country whose Government has boasted that it is now in charge of our borders post-Brexit, we could try to apply good sense to a problem that will otherwise keep on coming back.