Their dreams of reshaping Britain for a bright post-Brexit world have been blown off course by coronavirus. With more than 41,000 Covid-19 deaths in the U.K., Johnson has presided over the worst record in the world after the U.S.

Now Britain faces among the heaviest financial tolls from the pandemic of any major economy, and the deepest recession in 300 years. In the background is the specter of compounding the pain by failing to reach a trade deal with the European Union, with Johnson next week set to try to rescue talks that are going nowhere.

Fears are growing among officials in London that there's little or no trust in the leadership anymore. They worry a disillusioned public will simply ignore any future lockdown should a second wave of the virus take hold in the winter. Support for the government's virus strategy was already undermined after Johnson's closest adviser caused a scandal by allegedly flouting the rules.

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