Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week…
On Monday, US President Donald Trump meets with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, where as well as the traditional bilateral the two leaders will hold a one-on-one meeting.
- February 21, 2020
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Trump’s critics have voiced concern that the closed format of the meeting could make it easier for Putin to eke major concessions on NATO, Ukraine and Syria from the unpredictable President, who caused a series of controversies during visits to NATO and the UK last week.
Before arriving in Europe, Trump mused that the Russia summit may be the easiest of his scheduled meetings. He then proceeded to berate Chancellor Angela Merkel over German imports of Russian gas before criticising Theresa May’s approach to Brexit in a scathing interview with the Sun newspaper. The two leaders will be among many keenly awaiting the outcome of the Helsinki summit.
Brexit negotiations are set to restart in Brussels, with negotiators coming face to face for the first time since the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson last week.
Davis’s replacement as Brexit Secretary, former Housing Minister Dominic Raab, will be travelling to Brussels this week, but it is unclear whether he will be attending Monday’s negotiations.
The meetings will also be the first opportunity the two sides have to discuss the UK Government’s White Paper following its release on July 12.
Back in London, Theresa May will attempt to push two crucial pieces of Brexit legislation through the Commons: the Trade Bill and the Customs Bill, with both facing their final stages before heading to the Lords for approval.
May is likely to have to face down a rebellion from hard Brexit-supporting MPs, with opposition reported to be coalescing around the Customs Bill (also known as the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill) which comes before MPs for its third reading on Monday.
The hard-line Eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG), chaired by Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, announced that it would table four amendments to the bill that would effectively kill off May’s Brexit White Paper. The amendments were largely symbolic and have little chance of being passed by MPs.
However, the 80-strong ERG would need only a handful of Eurosceptic Tories to join vote with them to inflict a humiliating defeat on the Government.
On Tuesday, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) publishes its fiscal sustainability report, which assesses public finances for the next fifty years and assesses the economy’s long-term sustainability, with OBR director Robert Chote due to present findings to media after its release.
Last published in January 2017, the report will move to a biennial publication after this issue to alternate with a report on fiscal risks. Meanwhile, the Farnborough International Air Show is the unlikely setting as Bank of England Governor Mark Carney faces a grilling from the Treasury Select Committee over the Bank’s Financial Stability Report from last month.
In Johannesburg, Barack Obama delivers the Nelson Mandela Lecture, an annual event held in honour of the former South African President. Today’s event marks the centennial of Mandela’s birth, and Obama is expected to speak on the need to bridge ideological divides to resist oppression and inequality.
On Wednesday, Theresa May can expect to field questions from MPs on the white paper, Cabinet resignations, and the state of the UK’s special relationship with the United States when she appears in the Commons for the weekly round of Prime Minister’s Questions.
The afternoon’s business also features a timely debate on the future relationship between the UK and the EU. May then appears before the Liaison Committee later in the afternoon to be quizzed on air quality, Brexit (again), defence spending and the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster.
In another key Committee session, Environment Secretary Michael Gove is questioned by the European Scrutiny Committee as part of its inquiry into EU withdrawal.
Former EDL leader Tommy Robinson appears before the Court of Appeal to challenge his 13-month sentence for contempt of court. Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennnon, pleaded guilty to the charge in May after he broadcast on social media from outside a crown court and filmed people involved in an ongoing criminal trial.
His imprisonment has become a rallying cause for a variety of far-right groups, and a “Free Tommy Robinson” campaign is leading the call for his release.
On Thursday, the Office for National Statistics publishes annual crime statistics for England and Wales. Covering only the year to March 2018, the statistics won’t show whether the much-reported surge in violent crime at the start of the year, which saw London’s murder rate creep towards that of New York, represents a trend towards a higher rate of violent crime, or a ‘blip’ in the data.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey delivers her first major speech on the Universal Credit system in an address to the Reform think tank, two days after the latest official data on the programme are published.
McVey was forced to apologise last week for “inadvertently misleading” statements to the House of Commons about the findings of a critical National Audit Office on Universal Credit, and was publicly rebuked by NAO Auditor-General Amyas Morse about the comments.
On Friday, Michel Barnier attends the EU’s General Affairs Council (GAC) as it meets, minus the UK, to discuss the state of play with Brexit negotiations and the proposals in the UK Government’s July 12 white paper.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said last week that the agreement with the UK was 80% completed, but his response to the UK paper gave little away beyond a pointed reference to the “ambitious” free trade agreement being offered by Europe.
With suggestions that the UK paper could end up breaching both the UK’s and the EU’s negotiating red lines, whatever response comes from Barnier and the ministers today is likely to only pile more pressure on an embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.
In Dorset, the Tolpuddle Martyrs festival opens in the village where, in 1834, six farm labourers were arrested for forming a trade union and transported to Australia.
The men were pardoned after a three-year campaign, and the three-day festival celebrates the role played by unions and the working class in securing their release and has been graced by figures from across the labour movement, from Michael Foot and Tony Benn to Neil Kinnock and Tony Blair.
On Saturday, finance ministers and central bank governors from G20 nations gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for their second meeting of 2018, and the talks will be dominated by trade after tit-for-tat tariff hikes were introduced by several members over recent weeks.
The joint communique released after the group’s last meeting in March focused on the need to address ‘structural growth impediments’ in the global economy, but with EU nations reportedly planning to present a formal criticism of US trade actions there may be no such unity this time around.
On Sunday, golf’s most prestigious major comes to a conclusion, with the winner of The Open taking home the coveted Claret Jug. Taking place at the Carnoustie links in Angus, Scotland, the tournament, which opened on Thursday, unfortunately comes a week too late for the golf-mad US President to watch in person.
Americans Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, last year’s winner, are among the favourites for victory.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Reuters/Andrew Winning