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News diary 19-25 August: Watchdogs to report on Independent and Standard's Saudi deals

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

It’s a quiet week on the domestic front, with the House still in recess and Prime Minister Boris Johnson preparing for his first G7 Summit at the weekend.

We may see continued discussions from opposition parties about the potential makeup of any caretaker government in the event of a no-confidence vote when parliament returns, while the actual government continues to focus on its main message: Brexit on 31 October, come what may.

The week starts off focused on Russia, with Vladimir Putin meeting French President Emanuel Macron in France on Monday.

A French official recently confirmed that Macron will be using the meeting to try to persuade the Russian President to resume peace talks with Ukraine, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for a renewed round of talks earlier in the month. The meeting comes ahead of a G7 summit, from which Russia was removed following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Foreign affairs are also on the agenda in Moscow as the Council of the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, holds an extraordinary meeting to discuss “interference of foreign states and their structures in Russia’s internal affairs”.

The meeting comes amid a wave of anti-government protests prompted by the disqualification of candidates in September’s elections for Moscow’s city legislature. Earlier this month, the Russian Government accused Youtube and Google of advertising “unsanctioned mass events”.

On Tuesday, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte delivers an address to the Senate on Italy’s growing political crisis, with reports suggesting that a vote of no confidence and early elections are likely after Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini withdrew his support.

Salvini’s League party wants to end its coalition with the Five Star Movement, saying the unlikely partnership has become unworkable amid constant policy disputes.

In the UK, the NHS publishes the results of a biennial survey on youth attitudes towards smoking, drinking and drug use. The findings come after recent statistics showed that the number of deaths attributed to drugs in England and Wales in 2018 reached 2,917, the highest number since records began in 1993.

On Wednesday, the High Pay Centre and CIPD publish their annual assessment of FTSE 100 chief executive pay packages. Last year’s report found that the median pay for CEOs had risen 11 per cent, with the average pay ratio between CEOs and their employees rising to 145:1.

Sudan ushers in a new prime minister following the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir in April after three decades in power. Under the power-sharing agreement between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC), Sudan will return to civilian rule, ending nine months of unrest sparked by large-scale protests over the rising price of bread.

On Thursday, Paul Bussetti appears on trial at Westminster Magistrates’ Court charged with two counts of sending/causing to be sent grossly offensive material via a public communications network, after a video was posted online in November 2018 depicting a cardboard model of Grenfell Tower being burned in a bonfire.

Bussetti has said he has “no idea” why he took the footage of the effigy, mocking the fire that killed 72 people in June 2017, and that it was a “stupid moment”.

Thursday also marks the day thousands of 15 and 16-year-old students in England and Wales open their GCSE results, a week after A Level results were released.

The results come two years after former Education Secretary Michael Gove overhauled the secondary education system, which moved subjects away from coursework and modular exams, and prompted a subsequent decline in the number of students taking maths and English at A Level.

Ofcom and the Competition Markets Authority are expected to report back to the Government on Friday in relation to the “part-sale” of The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers to a company with links to the Saudi royal family.

The 2017 and 2018 sales, which saw owner Evgeny Lebedev (pictured) part with a 30 per cent stake in each paper, has led to direct accusations from Whitehall that the papers are now part-owned by the Saudi Arabian state, with a government lawyer arguing that the editorial independence of the publications could become compromised.

That argument was bolstered in June when a Public Interest Intervention Notice was issued by then Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright, specifically detailing concerns over the accurate presentation of news and freedom of expression.

The Democratic National Committee gathers for its summer meeting, with addresses from candidates vying to challenge Donald Trump for the White House in 2020. The crowded Democratic field is still led by former Vice President Joe Biden, though a surge in support for Senator Elizabeth Warren saw his lead substantially reduced in a recent poll.

In Hong Kong, an injunction preventing protesters from demonstrating at the city’s international airport is due to expire, following clashes between police and protesters there in recent days.

Further protests are planned later this weekend, and the massing of Chinese troops close to the border has done little to ease concerns that Beijing plans to use force to quell the unrest. The Chinese ambassador to the UK issued a stern warning in a recent press conference that Britain and other countries should “not interfere” in Hong Kong’s affairs.

The leaders of the United States, UK, Canada, Italy, France, Germany and Japan gather in Biarritz on Saturday for the start of the G7 summit. The meeting is the first for Boris Johnson since becoming prime minister, and he is expected to use the opportunity to hold a private round of bilateral talks on a post-Brexit trade deal with President Trump.

Recent gloomy forecasts for the global economic outlook are likely to dominate the leaders’ wider discussions, with a shrinking German economy and the plummeting value of the pound sparking fears of a potential recession on the horizon.

A busy day of sport sees Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea all in action in the Premier League, with England also welcoming Ireland to Twickenham in their penultimate Rugby World Cup warm-up game.

Rugby League’s Challenge Cup final is then played at Wembley Stadium with the Duke of Sussex in attendance, and a team time trial opens the 2019 edition of the Vuelta a España in Torrevieja.

Presidential elections are scheduled in the separatist Georgian republic of Abkhazia on Sunday, as incumbent Raul Khajimba seeks a second term in office. A meeting with Vladimir Putin in the run-up to the vote has led many commentators to conclude that Khajimba is the Kremlin’s preferred candidate in the ballot.

The election has already attracted controversy in the region – its original date in July having been pushed back in the wake of the poisoning of opposition leader Aslan Bzhania.

Sunday also marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris by allied forces in the Second World War. The French capital will celebrate the occasion with a parade and the opening of the new Musée de la Libératon de Paris.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Arthur Edwards/Pool

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