Keir Starmer Leaves Open Chance of Bank Holiday If England Wins Euro Football Tournament

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Keir Starmer left open the prospect of a bank holiday if England’s football team wins the European Championships on Sunday — a move that would cheer the nation but may hurt Britain’s economy.

“We should certainly mark the occasion,” if England beat Spain in the final, Starmer told reporters in Washington following England’s semifinal victory over the Netherlands. Nevertheless, he added “I don’t want to jinx it.”

England’s run to the Euro 2024 tournament final has contributed to a national feel-good feeling coinciding with Labour’s general election victory a week ago that swept Starmer into 10 Downing Street as Britain’s new premier. In another boost for his administration, economic data on Thursday showed the UK economy expanded at twice the pace expected in May.

While announcing a bank holiday to mark any win would certainly be a popular move for the new premier, it also comes with the risk of crimping growth — which he and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rachel Reeves have said is necessary to generate the funds they need to restore the UK’s ailing public services.

There’s a broad range of estimates for how much holding a bank holiday shaves off growth. A parliamentary report from 2010 estimated the cost of a bank holiday at £2.9 billion ($3.8 billion). But in 2022, the accounting firm PwC put the cost at £831 million. 

There could also be some economic benefit to an England win. A study by the University of Surrey in 2022 found that winning football’s World Cup could increase a nation’s GDP growth in the two quarters following the competition by up to 0.25 percentage points. That’s largely down to export growth due to increased appeal of the winning nation’s products and services, it found.

Starmer has past form of calling for a bank holiday in the event of a major national sporting success: last year, when he was in opposition, he called for one if the England Women’s football team were to win the World Cup — coincidentally, also against Spain. In the event, Spain won that match. 

The UK’s third-largest party, the Liberal Democrats, on Thursday said there should be a bank holiday in the event of a win, with its leader, Ed Davey, saying: “England deserves the chance to celebrate a once-in-a-generation event.”

Starmer said that now, the most important thing is for England to get the victory “over the line on Sunday,” a reference to the final, when England play Spain in Berlin at 9 p.m. Latest Betfair odds put Spain as the 8/11 favorites to win. 

To reach the final, England beat the Netherlands 2-1 on Wednesday, with Starmer watching part of the match alongside Dutch Prime Minister Dick Schoof while both were in the US capital for a NATO summit. 

Starmer joked about that win with US President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on Wednesday, with Biden saying England’s success was “all because of the prime minister.” Starmer, for his part, has repeatedly joked that England has never missed a penalty under a Labour government in 2024.

England’s win dominated the Oval Office media appearance, leaving the White House press pool struggling to explain what “it’s coming home” means. 

The tagline comes from a hit pop single from 1996 to mark England’s hosting of the European championships and the prospect then that the team might win a major football tournament for the first time since 1966. Almost three decades later, England’s fans are still waiting.

(Updates with details, context, starting in fifth paragraph.)

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