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News diary 2-8 March: Post-Brexit trade talks begin and Crufts set to go ahead despite coronavirus

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

The next phase of the Brexit process begins on Monday when Michel Barnier hosts David Frost for the first round of negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship.

The Government’s negotiating mandate committed to pursuing a comprehensive free trade agreement but made clear the UK would not accept alignment with EU rules in return. The document also raises the spectre of no-deal, while Michael Gove’s suggestion that a deal could be agreed by June effectively leaves Frost and team with under three months to secure an agreement. href="https://meed.com/

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There’s another major trade deal in the pipeline for this year, of course, and the Government is due to set out its negotiating approach for talks with the United States at the beginning of this week.

Liz Truss has met with the top US trade official Robert Lighthizer and talked up the prospect of bagging a mutually beneficial agreement, though the likely stumbling blocks are well known. Lighthizer remains in the UK on Monday to deliver an address to the Oxford Union.

Israelis vote in the country’s third elections in under a year, as Benjamin Netanyahu and his challenger Benny Gantz attempt to break the stalemate that has prevented either man from forming a viable government.

Looming over the election is Netanyahu’s upcoming corruption trial, which is due to begin on 17 March after it became clear Netanyahu did not have the support to assert immunity from prosecution. Weary voters may not be reassured by recent polling suggesting that third time may not in fact prove to be the charm.

Voters in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Utah take to the polls on Super Tuesday to choose their nominee for president.

With a third of the total delegates up for grabs, this will be a make or break day for the remaining Democratic candidates. The new addition of California, with over 20m voters and 55 delegates, makes the day even more significant than in previous cycles.

The first engagement in a royal-heavy week sees the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge kick off a three-day visit to Ireland, where they’ll focus on opportunities for young people and conservation and meet with political leaders to highlight the theme of “remembrance and reconciliation”.

But the couple’s visit may be overshadowed by the return of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, who are in the UK for their final round of public engagements before stepping down from their roles as senior royals at the end of the month.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health publishes its set piece State of Child Health report on Wednesday. The release features crucial child health indicators such as infant mortality, smoking in pregnancy, children in care, poverty, and immunisation.

Last year’s report was highly critical and concluded that no progress had been made in reducing child poverty or inequality since 2017, and also warned that cuts to public health services and uncertainty over the impact of Brexit could ultimately undermine progress on improving child health in the UK.

George Eustice has faced an unenviably tough start to his time at the head of Defra, from being the focal point of residents’ anger at the Government’s response to flooding in the north of England to facing a hostile reception at the National Farmers’ Union conference last week.

With his in-tray already overflowing, the Environment Secretary appears at a Lords committee to discuss post-Brexit access to UK fisheries, a symbolic issue for many Leave voters and one which has now assumed even greater importance in the negotiations phase of the UK’s withdrawal.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the Endeavour Fund Awards at Mansion House on Thursday, their first joint official appearance since the announcement of their departure.

The event recognises injured servicemen and women who have recovered to take part in sport and adventure challenges though, as with Harry’s eco-tourism speech in Edinburgh, it’s unlikely the awards themselves will be getting top billing.

Newly appointed Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden makes his first appearance as the head of DCMS as he addresses the Media and Telecoms and Beyond conference, just 15 minutes before outgoing BBC director-general Lord Hall takes the stage.

Both are expected to use their speeches to address the proposed scrapping of the BBC licence fee, which has sparked a growing rift between Whitehall and W1A. Dowden’s predecessor Nicky Morgan fired a broadside at the Beeb before being replaced in February’s cabinet reshuffle, warning the broadcaster that it faced “becoming a relic” if it failed to embrace the proposals.

The Welsh Conservative Party gathers in Llangollen for its annual conference on Friday. The Welsh Tories have enjoyed a strong start to the new decade; after gaining an extra six seats in December’s general election, a poll released in Janaury has forecast big gains in next May’s Welsh Assembly vote.

The conference is unlikely to be problem-free, however, with Boris Johnson and his ministerial team having come in for fierce criticism over their response to the recent flooding in South Wales.

With the London Mayoral election now just two months away, incumbent Sadiq Khan faces his challengers on stage for the first time in a debate at the Southbank Centre’s annual Women of the World festival.

London Assembly members recently approved Khan’s budget proposals for extra funding for the Met, and a row among the candidates over youth services suggests the Mayor’s response to rising youth violence will be a key issue in the coming campaign.

The Guinness Six Nations tournament resumes on Saturday as England welcome Wales to Twickenham. Despite England still being firmly in the title picture, the major championship story of the weekend is the cancelled match between Ireland and Italy, postponed as a result of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak which has spread to northern Italy.

The Azzurri are due to conclude their campaign against England in Rome on 14 March, though talks are underway between the two countries to decide if the match should go ahead.

The royal week rounds up with a busy weekend: the Duke and Duchess of Sussex attend the Mountbatten Festival of Music at Royal Albert Hall on Saturday, the Duke’s last engagement as Captain-General of the Royal Marines before he gives up the post, and the Duchess of Sussex marks International Women’s Day on Sunday, with details yet to be released.

Last year, a pregnant Meghan took part in a panel with Annie Lennox, Adwoa Aboah and Julia Gillard, and told the audience she hoped her baby would be a feminist. The Duchess’s remarks this year are sure to be parsed for any sign of a more vocal direction she might take once free of the conventions imposed by her current place in the royal family.

Over 20,000 dogs from across the globe gather in Birmingham over the weekend for the Crufts dog show. The highlight comes on the final day, when one of seven good boys or girls is crowned Best in Show.

Last year’s winner was Papillon ‘”Dylan the villain” (pictured), though the English Cocker Spaniel continues to be the most successful breed in the competition. The event is currently due to go ahead as planned despite fears over coronavirus, although some international exhibitors are no longer attending.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Hannah McKay 

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