Thursday morning UK news briefing: Rishi Sunak's radical Budget solution – honesty

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Chris Price
·6 min read
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rishi sunak spring budget 2021 meghan harry royal family nicola sturgeon alex salmond
rishi sunak spring budget 2021 meghan harry royal family nicola sturgeon alex salmond

Welcome to your early-morning news briefing from The Telegraph - a round-up of the top stories we are covering on Thursday. To receive twice-daily briefings by email, sign up to our Front Page newsletter for free.

Sunak's freezes raise tax burden to largest since 1960s

Cartoonist Blower's take on the Budget
Cartoonist Blower's take on the Budget

As the dust settles, so the close analysis of the numbers begins. Rishi Sunak announced a series of freezes to personal allowances in the Budget as part of a revenue-raising drive which will see the tax burden increase to its highest level since 1969 (this is why it was so high back then). Setting out his long-term plan to get the public finances under control, the Chancellor revealed a number of "stealth" raids which will net the Treasury an additional £21 billion. Businesses face a tax hike on their profits for the first time in almost 50 years. The raid on large firms is expected to raise an extra £17.2bn a year in tax receipts by 2025/26 and almost £50bn over the next five years. Mr Sunak also pledged a £352bn Covid support package to help people and businesses affected by the pandemic. Danielle Sheridan sets out how the measures work. Indeed, the Chancellor's announcements were so dramatic that even Jeremy Corbyn felt he had a case to accuse Mr Sunak of stealing the economic policies of his hard-Left Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. If you are not keen on Mr Sunak's Budget, you could take this advice from Matt.

There was some good news for the public finances - albeit from an unexpected source. Heavier drinking during the pandemic has landed the Treasury with a £800 million tax windfall even though pubs, clubs and restaurants have been closed, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. It may be why Mr Sunak felt emboldened to freeze tax on all alcohol for only the third time in 20 years as part of an attempt to support pubs, restaurants and clubs forced to shut by Covid restrictions.

Vaccine rollout will speed up recovery by six months

It is hard to imagine things could have been worse but the Government's financial watchdog tried to make us look on the bright side. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the UK's world-beating vaccination programme will speed up the economic recovery by six months as the nation experiences a "swifter and more sustained" fightback from the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Treasury's independent forecaster has said an extension to the stamp duty holiday announced in the Budget will spark a modest rise in house prices and stimulate additional transactions.

Chancellor's radical solution to 'stealth' taxes – honesty

As Mr Sunak set out his £21bn personal tax raid in the Budget, Madeline Grant sketches how the dead cats were gone from the Chancellor's speech as he instead plumped for a radical solution – honesty. He unveiled his stealth taxes in broad daylight but Harry de Quetteville warns Mr Sunak has gambled his future on telling uncomfortable truths. Ben Wright outlines the danger we will still be paying the £407bn Covid bill when the next catastrophe arrives. Liam Halligan thinks Mr Sunak needs to level with us on the jobs crisis and QE and Roger Bootle warns that in taking care of the deficit, we must not forget the debt.

Budget 2021: Other headlines round-up

At a glance: Today's coronavirus headlines

Also in the news: Today's other headlines

Royal rift | The Duchess of Sussex has accused Buckingham Palace of "perpetuating falsehoods" about her and Prince Harry. In a preview clip from their blockbuster interview with Oprah Winfrey, to be broadcast on Sunday, the Duchess referred to the Royal Family as "The Firm". It comes as Buckingham Palace said it is to investigate claims Meghan bullied several members of her staff. Camilla Tominey analyses why the fierce denial issued by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex suggests talk of "tensions" between the royal brothers were just the tip of the iceberg.

Around the world: Attorney General outs himself

Christian Porter outed himself as the unnamed minister accused of rape - Stefan Gosatti/AFP
Christian Porter outed himself as the unnamed minister accused of rape - Stefan Gosatti/AFP

Australia's Attorney General has confirmed he is the cabinet minister accused of raping a teenage girl in 1988. Christian Porter, who is also Leader of the House and Minister for Workplace Relations, denied the allegations against him at a press conference in Perth, saying he would not step down. Read on for details and view more world pictures.

Comment and analysis

You've got this: Getting you through lockdown

  1. Siblings' drama | Will the royal brothers ever heal the rift?

  2. Meghan's earrings | When diamonds aren't always a girl's best friend

  3. Nasty Nick and 'dangerous issues' | How Greenborne plans to topple The Archers

Business and money briefing

Plea to taxpayer | Vauxhall's Ellesmere Port factory will close with the loss of thousands of jobs unless it gets support from British taxpayers, the boss of the car maker has warned. Read on for details.

Sport briefing

Fourth Test | England won the toss and elected to bat against India in Ahmedabad as they attempt to level the series. As the tourists get off to a grimly predictable shaky start, follow the action in our liveblog.

Tonight's dinner

Lamb cutlets with borlotti bean purée | This quick and healthy bite can be on the table in under half an hour. Click here to view the recipe and try Cookbook newsletter.

And finally... for this morning's downtime

'Divorce by social media' | As Alice Evans and Ioan Gruffudd experience a public split, Flic Everett assesses the reasons to keep schtum online - and why you should never get friends involved