News diary 1-7 June: Coronavirus lockdown eases and MPs return to Parliament

Foresight News rounds-up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

Monday

England officially moves to Step Two of its coronavirus recovery plan as the government pushes ahead with the re-opening of schools for reception, year one and year six students, despite opposition from teaching unions, councils, and the Independent SAGE group.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms can also re-open from today, while sporting and cultural events can go ahead behind closed doors. British Horse Racing and World Snooker are the first to take advantage, with races resuming at Newcastle today and the Matchroom.Live Championship League airing from Milton Keynes.

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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is scheduled to appear via videolink at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for the latest hearing in his ongoing extradition case. The proceedings were initially listed to resume in May, but were pushed back to early September due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Assange is wanted by American authorities on charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, and has been repeatedly denied bail on the grounds that he is a flight risk. His wife and supporters argue that his continued imprisonment endangers his life.

Tuesday

Tuesday marks the opening of the last round of Brexit negotiations before a planned summit later in the month to take stock of progress, as well as a looming 30 June deadline for an extension to the transition period. The agenda dedicates a significant chunk of time to discussions on fisheries and level playing field provisions, both of which have been contentious sticking points so far, though reports suggest we could see some movement in this round.

The slow progress of negotiations and the UK’s insistence that it will not extend the transition period – despite EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier telling opposition parties the EU is “open” to the idea – have led to renewed fears of a no-deal Brexit, notwithstanding the UK’s ban on using the terms “no-deal” and “Brexit”.

A slightly earlier-than-planned return for MPs today after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle agreed to the government’s request to recall the Commons to consider how to conduct divisions in the Covid-19 era. With remote voting no longer permitted after the lapse of temporary hybrid regulations, Hoyle told MPs that the traditional method of voting using division lobbies did not meet Public Health England’s social distancing guidelines and tasked the government with devising a new voting regime.

The Speaker’s decision to allow amendments to the motion also means irate opposition parties could yet circumvent Jacob Rees-Mogg’s decision to end hybrid sittings before many felt it was appropriate to do so.

The Commons Defence sub-committee holds a virtual meeting on the security of 5G, an increasingly significant topic in conversations on the UK’s defence and national security infrastructure. The session is sure to focus on recent revelations that the government is conducting a fresh review into Chinese tech giant Huawei’s involvement in developing the UK’s 5G network.

Witnesses include outspoken US Senator Tom Cotton, who has vociferously criticised Boris Johnson’s decision and called for a subsequent review of US-UK intelligence sharing.

Wednesday

Johnson faces another Wednesday grilling this week in the first PMQs of the new term. The key issue for the Prime Minster will be whether the recess week scandal involving chief adviser Dominic Cummings is still exercising MPs’ ire after he declared the matter closed at the Downing Street briefing on 28 May.

Keir Starmer’s accusation that Johnson is too weak to act is unlikely to sit well with either Johnson or Cummings, nor the growing number of Tory MPs who appear to share the Labour leader’s sentiments. Elsewhere, Johnson is likely to face further questions on the introduction of the test, track and trace programme, while there must be at least one honourable member curious enough to ask exactly who has banned the Prime Minister from setting targets.

Down the virtual corridor, Mel Stride’s Treasury Committee takes evidence from former Chancellors Alistair Darling, Philip Hammond and George Osborne on the economic impact of coronavirus. Darling warned earlier this month that the impact will be “far, far worse” than the 2008 banking crisis, and both he and Osborne have focused on the need for a longer-term plan, particularly when it comes to getting Britons back to work after the furlough scheme ends.

Thursday

The UK hosts the Global Vaccine Summit, aimed at ensuring that there is global, equal access to any eventual Covid-19 vaccine. Biotech companies around the world have been racing to find a vaccine, and the summit acts as a donor pledging conference for Gavi, a global health partnership increasing immunisation access in developing countries.

There are fears the disease may overwhelm poorer countries’ health systems, but the anti-vax movement is proving an additional threat to developed countries’ public health campaigns after a recent poll suggested only half of Americans would be willing to get a vaccine if it existed.

Las Vegas reopens its famous strip as attention focuses on returning the United States to some semblance of normality. The Bellagio, MGM Grand, and New York-New York are the first Sin City casinos to reopen their doors, though strict health and safety measures will be enforced and limited amenities available.

Las Vegas contributes almost $60bn to the Nevada tourism industry, according to figures released last year, sparking hopes that the city’s gradual reopening will provide the ailing US economy with a much-needed shot in the arm.

Friday

As the Brexit negotiations come to an end on Friday, expect a press conference with Barnier and a statement from UK negotiator David Frost to update on any progress they might have made.

Barnier used his last briefing to remind the UK that it “cannot have the best of both worlds” and to bemoan of a “lack of ambition” on money laundering and the role of civil society, while Frost accused the EU of an “ideological approach” that features “novel and unbalanced proposals”, so Brexit watchers will be hoping for something more positive this time around.

It’s the 45th anniversary of the UK’s referendum on the European Economic Community, an in/out vote on Europe that divided the governing party and produced unlikely political alliances in a campaign featuring bitter arguments over trade, jobs and sovereignty.

Many of the themes of the Brexit referendum took root in 1975, and, while the aftermath of both votes has proven that there is never a simple explanation for any outcome, there have been at least some constants in the UK’s near-50-year wrestle with Europe.

Saturday

Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn joins author Arundhati Roy and activist Tariq Ali to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on the geopolitical landscape at a Stop the War Coalition event.

Corbyn’s involvement with the coalition is long-standing; he was a mainstay at their events before becoming Labour leader, and continued to speak at major conferences and rallies even as one-time supporter Peter Thatchell accused the group of “betray[ing] the Syrian people” in 2016.

Former President Barack Obama delivers a virtual graduation address to the Class of 2020. In commencement addresses last month, Obama offered his most explicit public criticism of President Trump to date, highlighting the failed response to the pandemic as the country neared 100,000 deaths. In today’s speech, Obama is likely to address the recent wave of protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

Sunday

Nearly two years after announcing his retirement, John Sentamu steps down as Archbishop of York, set to be replaced by the Right Reverend Stephen Cottrell, the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

Sentamu has used his parting weeks to speak out against the low salaries carers earn and the “inadequacy” of the public safety net, saying that while the Clap for Carers campaign is “a kind gesture”, it does not help those risking their lives on the frontline of the pandemic who are struggling to stay afloat financially.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

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