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Pubs can open early for World Cup final, No 10 tells councils

Pubs can open earlier than normal on Sunday to allow fans to watch the final of the women’s World Cup, No 10 has said.

The Prime Minister wants councils to speed up the processing of last-minute applications to serve alcohol in the morning in order to mark the clash between England and Australia.

But he is set to face down calls for a special extra bank holiday to give the country a day off in the event the Lionesses win the tournament, i understands.

The Government believes that an additional bank holiday – the fourth in less than 18 months – would have an unacceptable cost to the economy by taking workers off duty for another day.

Hospitality firms have called on Rishi Sunak to authorise special rules which would give all pubs the right to serve alcohol early on Sunday.

But Government lawyers have advised that the move is unnecessary, because businesses can already open as early as they like and most are licensed to serve drinks from 11am – the time of kick-off. Local authorities have been asked to ensure they deal with any additional applications to vary licensing hours as quickly as possible.

A Government source said: “Recognising this momentous occasion, we want to encourage the police and local authorities to work together for maximum flexibility to make sure that the country can enjoy the match and get behind the Lionesses altogether.”

Emma McClarkin of the British Beer and Pub Association called on ministers to move the default opening time an hour earlier, saying: “We need the Government to step in and allow the necessary regulatory easement to allow pubs to serve the public from 10am on final day, so fan and communities can come together and cheer the Lionesses to victory at the best place to watch live sport, the pub. Where there’s a will, there has to be a way.” The Liberal Democrats said Parliament should be recalled to pass emergency legislation on the issue.

Sir Keir Starmer has led calls for a celebratory bank holiday to take place later this year if England do win the final, but Mr Sunak is not planning to announce an extra day off in light of the recent bank holidays to mark the late Queen’s platinum jubilee, her state funeral and the King’s coronation.

A Government spokesman said: “Winning the World Cup would be a massive moment for the country and make no mistake we’ll find the right way to celebrate. As Sarina Wiegman herself has said, the first thing to do is focus on the final and the whole country will be rooting for the Lionesses this weekend.”

Conservative MP Caroline Nokes proposed a compromise which would see the upcoming August bank holiday renamed to honour the England team. She told i: “Of course there should be massive celebration if they win – a bank holiday would be a very big deal though, I’m not sure the economy would like another one. How about renaming the August bank holiday ‘Lioness Day’?”

Polling suggests that younger people are heavily in favour of an extra bank holiday while older groups are more sceptical. A YouGov survey found 66 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds supporting a bank holiday – but among adults over the age of 65, a vast majority (73 per cent) said there should not be an extra day off work.

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