Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week…
After the dramas of last week, when the arrival of a draft Brexit agreement prompted the resignations of two cabinet members and raised the threat of a challenge to Theresa May’s leadership, there is no let-up for the Prime Minister this week as the task of selling the deal to the public and convincing her MPs to vote for it begins in earnest.
- March 22, 2019
- March 15, 2019
- March 8, 2019
Monday’s scheduled business in Parliament presents problems on several fronts for May: she needs to find a Work and Pensions Secretary to replace Esther McVey who’s willing to take on the burden of defending Universal Credit against accusations that the programme is doing more harm than good for benefits claimants.
The confidence and supply arrangement with the DUP then faces a test with the start of two days of debate on the Finance Bill, through which Budget measures are enacted.
The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson had already suggested the party may not support the Government when the Bill is voted on before his party signed up to cross-party rebel amendments that led to a u-turn over the introduction of reforms to fixed-odds betting terminals.
Two of May’s remaining cabinet ministers, David Lidington and Andrea Leadsom, are due before Parliamentary committees to discuss security spending and Commons procedure respectively.
Lidington, the de-facto deputy Prime Minister, is a May loyalist and can be expected to support May’s efforts to sell her Brexit deal in the coming weeks. Leadsom challenged May for the Conservative Party leadership in 2016 and was among the group of Cabinet members who were thought to be close to resignation last week.
In Brussels, European ministers convene to discuss the agreement and prepare for the weekend’s leaders’ meeting, but they’re also due to agree a mandate for the European Commission to finalise the joint declaration over future relations between the UK and the EU.
This is the next stage of negotiations with Europe that will define the UK’s relationship with the bloc on trade and security, and is likely to prove just as contentious as the debate over withdrawal.
Amid all this, there could be a leadership challenge for May to fight if the number of letters of no confidence being submitted to 1922 Committee chair Graham Brady reaches the threshold of 48.
Jacob Rees-Mogg very publicly threw down the gauntlet last week but ruled himself out as a possible challenger, instead naming the recently-departed Dominic Raab, David Davis, and Esther McVey among the “swathes of talent” who could replace May.
On Tuesday, European Commission officials are due to have agreed the joint declaration on a future relationship before it’s presented to EU27 sherpas to evaluate later this week. The declaration would then be presented to national leaders to approve at Sunday’s extraordinary Council meeting.
Cabinet ministers Damian Hinds, David Gauke and Jeremy Wright are due to appear in public at a series of events which are now likely to take on a more distinctive Brexit flavour.
Education Secretary Hinds addresses the Association of Colleges annual conference in Birmingham, Justice Secretary Gauke discusses prisoner rehabilitation at a think tank event in London, and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright speaks at a Parliament and Internet conference which is also attended by ambitious Tory MP Tom Tugendhat.
On Wednesday, the Prime Minister returns to the Commons for another round of PMQs. By now, MPs will have had the opportunity to properly digest the 585-page draft agreement, so Theresa May can expect a much more forensic examination of the deal, while Jeremy Corbyn is certain to try to exploit the division within the Conservative party as he pushes for the chance to fight another general election.
In what could be the most fortuitously-timed select committee session ever, Michael Gove is then due to give evidence to MPs on whether his department is ready for Brexit.
The Environment Secretary reportedly rejected an offer to replace Dominic Raab as Brexit Secretary last week and was immediately tipped to follow Raab’s lead and resign from the Cabinet. Instead, Gove said he would stay on and work for the best future for Britain.
The Supreme Court hears a permission to appeal claim on Thursday filed by a motor neurone disease sufferer who is seeking the right to die via assisted suicide.
Noel Conway has already lost the case in the Court of Appeal, and the country’s highest court is now set to decide whether his claim should go to a full hearing. His legal team is expected to argue that the denial of assisted suicide is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.
In Birmingham, Housing and Communities Secretary and May ally James Brokenshire addresses a conference hosted by finance industry body The City UK. The event’s theme is the contribution of financial services to the UK’s growth, and Brokenshire is joined by pollster Deborah Mattinson and HSBC UK chief executive Ian Stuart.
Former IRA member John Downey is due to appear at Dublin’s High Court on Friday for arguments in a case concerning his extradition to Northern Ireland. Downey has previously been accused of involvement in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing and was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of murdering two Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers in 1972.
Lille hosts the Davis Cup tennis final as defending champions France take on Croatia. The 118-year-old competition is the largest annual team contest in sport, but world number one Novak Djokovic suggested its future could be in jeopardy earlier this week.
On Saturday, the DUP gathers for its annual conference in Belfast. After securing Theresa May’s place in Downing Street, the party now appears poised to topple the Government over a Brexit agreement which they argue could lead to the ultimate break-up of the UK.
Last week, Westminster leader Nigel Dodds launched a remarkable attack on Theresa May in Parliament before Arlene Foster warned that the party’s MPs wouldn’t be able to support the draft deal in a Commons vote.
Geoffrey Cox is the star turn at the annual Bar conference in London after playing a crucial role in delivering the draft Brexit deal. The Attorney General’s legal advice to ministers on the agreement will soon be published in full after Labour successfully tabled a motion which was supported by DUP and Tory MPs.
Justice Secretary Gauke and Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti also address the gathering, which focuses this year on equality, diversity, and inclusivity at the bar.
Finally, European leaders gather on Sunday for a special summit on the draft Brexit deal. The 27 European leaders will rubber stamp the agreement which was finalised some two and a half years on from the EU referendum.
It’s undoubtedly a seminal moment in the Brexit process, though chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that much work still needs to be done ahead of the March 29, 2019 departure date.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Matt Dunham/Pool via Reuters