Jacobs Allen's Mark Baker takes a look back on a year no-one would have predicted
Who would have predicted back in January what we are currently facing at the end of 2020? At that time we still had a full 12 months to agree a trade deal with the EU, and although changes were inevitable, following our exit from the EU at the end of January 2020, it was at least hoped we would know what they were well before the end of 2020. Yes, there was alarm at reports of a new virus in China, but that couldn’t possibly affect us here in rural Suffolk, could it? After all, there had been many other contagious diseases in exotic lands which had not reached us.
Although as a firm we were prepared for lockdown, it was only when it was announced in March that the reality came home to me personally, as it did no doubt for many others.
Within days of returning to work from an overseas trip I was faced with a total lockdown. Suddenly my 45-minute commute into town became a few steps from the kitchen to the study at home. It was strange at first, but I soon adapted to my new working surroundings as did so many others in all types of industries. I very quickly changed my working practices and learnt how to log into the office database and hold meetings onscreen. This would have been unthinkable when I started my career, computers were still a novelty back then.
The pandemic brought a raft of help from the Government at very short notice and, as accountants, our clients naturally looked to us for support in unravelling what it meant for them. This was a steep learning curve for all, with new rules and guidance issued almost daily, and a host of new acronyms to understand: CJRS, SEISS, CBILS and BBL (all articles we wrote can be found on our website: jacobsallen.co.uk) However, we were fortunate that our business could continue to operate, unlike many others, particularly in the retail and hospitality sectors which saw trade cease literally overnight.
We are, of course, very much still in the grip of the pandemic but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Despite gloomy predictions that a vaccine might never be found, scientists worldwide have remarkably produced several vaccines which, judging by the results of trials, are highly effective. It is to be hoped that the talk of conspiracy theories on social media will not deter most people from taking the vaccine.
As I write, there is a glimmer of hope that a trade deal might still be reached with the EU. By the time you read this, we hopefully will know where we stand, whether it is an ‘Australian deal’ (in other words no deal!), or some form of continuation of favourable trading with our nearest neighbours. Whatever happens, we will soon put this remarkable year behind us and enter 2021, looking forward to getting back to some semblance of normal.
-- Mark Baker is a director at Jacobs Allen