THE governor of the Bank of England has said there is “light at the end of the tunnel” for Hampshire after a day spent listening to local businesses.

Andrew Bailey paid a virtual visit to the Port of Southampton, held a “round table” with local businesses and spoke to nearly 200 local school pupils.

Mr Bailey said the conversations had helped him build a picture of the impact of Brexit and the Covid crisis.

“Clearly there has been a disruption, no surprise there. On the other hand, there’s a clear message that there is a very solid and sustained and growing underlying container trade, for instance,” he said.

He had heard hopes that the “roadmap” out of the Covid lockdown would improve the outlook for sectors such as the cruise industry.

“Obviously it’s hugely hit, as we know, but some sense of optimism that with the news on the lifting plan, vaccination programme, reduction in cases of Covid, that there’s some light coming through at the end of the tunnel, a sense of some renewed interest, some beginnings of stirrings in terms of getting ready to start planning things,” he said.

“So I came away there with a sense of it’s been really hugely hit but a sense of 'Maybe we’re now beginning to see real light coming through at the end of the tunnel'.

“What I’ve heard today adds a lot of really helpful flavour to the broad picture we have.”

He said the impact of Covid on the economy had been “very unevenly felt”.

“Some parts of the economy, particularly service sectors that rely on close human contact – non-essential retailing, hospitality, travel – badly hit, some other parts not particularly hit. If you’re an online retailer, you’re doing pretty well actually, so it is a mixed story in that respect and that pattern comes through in what I’ve heard,” he said.

He said the impact of the second lockdown last year had been less severe than the first. “Obviously we’re now in the third lockdown which is a more substantial one and we do expect a negative quarter this quarter, but not in any sense like the one we had in spring of last year,” he added.

“So there is an attenuating effect there and that was something I picked up from talking to businesses in the local area today as to what they were experiencing, a number saying they were seeing more activity and seeing some evidence of pent-up demand.”

Mr Bailey said of his virtual visit: “I’m looking forward to being able to resume actual visits because they are really a very important part of what we do, what all of my colleagues do, what the governors do, but meanwhile it’s been a fascinating day, absolutely fascinating.”