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News diary 11-17 February: Trial of Catalan independence leaders begins and Nigeria goes to the polls

Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week… 

After the flurry of UK-EU meetings at the end of the week failed to produce a Brexit breakthrough, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier sit down in Strasbourg on Monday to discuss “alternative arrangements” to the Irish backstop.

Back in the UK, the ONS publishes GDP figures from the last quarter of 2018. Monthly figures published last month showed growth has been slowing, with blame attributed to a drop in car production and manufacturing.

Across the pond, US President Donald Trump holds a rally in Texas, the first since his State of the Union address. While Trump boosts his image with his supporters, so too does his Iranian adversary President Rouhani, whose country celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte speaks at the European Parliament on Tuesday, participating in a debate on the future of Europe that will be made more interesting by France’s decision to recall its ambassador to Italy amid an ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries.

In Madrid, a high-profile trial opens for 12 people charged over Catalonia’s 2017 independence bid, including former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and former Catalan President Artur Mas are expected to be among witnesses in the trial, which is expected to last around three months.

Tuesday is also a day to celebrate exploration: NASA marks the first of the seven flybys its Juno spacecraft will make over Jupiter this year, signalling the points at which it is closest to the gaseous giant in each of its 53-day orbits, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are among guests at the Wider Earth gala, celebrating Charles Darwin’s 210th birthday.

As she promised after securing victory in the second Commons Brexit vote, Theresa May is expected to make a statement after PMQs on Wednesday to update MPs on the outcome of her trips to Brussels and Dublin last week. The plan was to re-negotiate the backstop and return with a winning deal, though the two days may prove to be more memorable for the imagery and soundbites than any actual progress.

Away from Brexit, defence ministers from NATO nations convene in Brussels for the organisation’s first meeting since the United States confirmed the suspension of its compliance with the INF Treaty in a move that is likely to concern the bloc’s Eastern European members.

Separately, the US and Poland co-host a major ministerial meeting on security in the Middle East which has attracted the ire of the Iranian government amid allegations of an anti-Tehran agenda. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt reportedly agreed to attend on the condition that a meeting on Yemen take place on the sidelines.

Will the third time prove to be a Valentine’s Day charm? The Prime Minister’s latest Brexit motion is due to be brought before the House of Commons on Thursday and, in the likely event that a fresh deal has not been agreed, will not produce a resolution to the impasse.

But as with the vote on 29 January, the tabling of amendments may just provide some clarity on the timing and method by which the UK’s exit from the EU will be completed, particularly if a proposal for an extension to the Article 50 period is successfully revived.

Vladimir Putin hosts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Hassan Rouhani for discussions which are likely to be dominated by the situation in Syria. The meeting comes after Trump claimed he would be able to announce this week that all territory held by ISIS in Syria had been recaptured, and the absence of US involvement in Moscow suggests Russia, Turkey and Iran will seek to capitalise on the Trump administration’s withdrawal from Syria.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs releases official statistics on the emission of air pollutants in the UK on Friday. The figures cover the period from 1970 to 2017 and follow the publication of research by Unicef which warned that parents were worryingly unaware of the dangers of air pollution.

The Munich Security Conference, an annual gathering for the security community which traditionally attracts high-level speakers, begins in Bavaria. The agenda for the three-day event is usually only revealed on the eve of the conference, but US Vice President Mike Pence and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are among the big names to have confirmed their participation so far this year, while French President Emmanuel Macron has cancelled his trip to focus on domestic issues. German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses the conference on Saturday.

Elections take place in Nigeria, where incumbent Muhammadu Buhari (pictured) is seeking a second term after becoming the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in the country in 2015. The Nigerian electoral commission was last week forced to defend its decision to invite an EU mission to observe the elections after Kaduna State governor Nasir el-Rufai appeared to suggest that foreign interference in the polls would be met with violence.

And Birmingham hosts the Muller Indoor Grand Prix, a one-day event which acts as a curtain-raiser for the main athletics season and has previously been graced by Olympians and world champions including Sir Mo Farah and Dina Asher-Smith. Sprinters Reece Prescod and CJ Ujah and middle-distance runner Laura Muir are among the British medal hopefuls this year.

Sunday is currently looking very quiet, though should liven up when the closing day speakers are announced in Munich.

Otherwise, there is some fifth-round FA Cup action and the Daytona 500 for sports fans, as well as the NBA All-Star Game, which takes place in Charlotte, North Carolina, a year after the city had its 2018 hosting duties revoked amid controversy over its transgender bathroom law.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Tife Owolabi

Comments

1 thought on “News diary 11-17 February: Trial of Catalan independence leaders begins and Nigeria goes to the polls”

  1. “…and the absence of US involvement in Moscow suggests Russia, Turkey and Iran will seek to capitalise on the Trump administration’s withdrawal from Syria”
    The phrasing of this is very misleading, it creates a situation that doesn’t actually exist and dresses it up to the detriment of all but the US. The US has consistently blocked all dialogue unless via the largely discredited Geneva process and given US forces aren’t leaving Syria, makes this a wonderful piece of nonsense.

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