News diary 23-29 July: Fox shareholders to vote on Disney merger as Google parent company reveals half-year results

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

On Monday, the 22nd International AIDS Conference opens in Amsterdam. The largest conference on any global health issue, it’s a key date in the HIV/AIDS calendar and attracts politicians, researchers, and celebrity supporters, who this year include former US President Bill Clinton, actress Charlize Theron and Eurovision winner Conchita.

A highlight of the conference will be Prince Harry, in the Netherlands for a solo visit, launching a new initiative with Sir Elton John to tackle HIV infections in men.

Alphabet, the parent holding company of Google, holds its quarterly conference call to discuss half-year results less than a week after it was fined €4.34bn by the European Commission for illegal practices over requirements placed on smartphone manufacturers to use the Android operating system.

Investors will await a formal response from the top of the company after suggestions that it would appeal the fine and even consider ending the open availability of the Android software.

The Supreme Court hears a landmark legal challenge beginning on Tuesday which could have enormous implications for the UK’s devolved governments in the Brexit process. The case challenges the legality of the Scottish Parliament’s Brexit Bill – a piece of legislation that was passed by MSPs earlier this year.

Known as the continuity bill, it seeks to ensure that devolved powers which are currently dealt with in Brussels are returned to the UK’s regional administrations once Britain’s departure from the EU is formalised. The bill was introduced to counter Theresa May’s own leading piece of Brexit legislation, with MSPs arguing that Westminster’s proposals “undermine devolution”. The result of the case is certain to further muddy the waters of Brexit, regardless of whether Holyrood or Westminster emerges victorious.

The final day of Parliamentary business before the summer recess brings a flurry of committee sessions: newly-appointed Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is first up at 2pm, when he gives evidence to the Exiting the European Union committee alongside Oliver Robbins, the PM’s chief Europe adviser, on the progress of Brexit negotiations.

Chris Grayling then appears before members of the Transport Committee to answer questions on the failed East Coast rail franchise. The network was brought back under Government control last month and is the latest in a catalogue of railway problems which have come to dominate the Epsom MP’s brief.

Finally, Matt Hancock faces the Health and Social Care committee for the first time since succeeding Jeremy Hunt as Health Secretary. Hancock is likely to be asked to elaborate on his plans to help “fed up” NHS staff.

Representatives from the UK and Irish Governments convene on Wednesday for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference, the first such meeting since February 2007. Senior figures, including Tánaiste Simon Coveney, UK Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley and Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, will discuss the operation of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement, North/South security co-operation, and bilateral co-operation between the two governments.

Although announcement of the conference was welcomed by Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil leaders Michelle O’Neill and Micheál Martin, DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds and Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann suggested focus should instead be on talks in Belfast to restore the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly.

In the US, Donald Trump holds talks with European Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker at the White House. The meeting comes amid rapidly souring relations between Europe and the US: last week the President described the European Union as a “foe” in an interview with CBS News and said the EU had “taken advantage” of the US on trade, while EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom subsequently warned that further US tariffs on the auto industry would be “unfortunate”.

Wednesday also marks 40 years since the birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first human born following conception by IVF.

On Thursday, the Office for National Statistics releases its preliminary estimates of the UK’s GDP for the second quarter of 2018. Forecasts by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggest that the economy will pick up, with growth rising to 0.4 per cent from 0.2 per cent in Q1, when February and March’s cold snaps are thought to have contributed to an economic slowdown.

First quarter figures were the UK’s worst for five years, so even modest signs of improvement today would be welcome for the Government.

French President Emmanuel Macron travels to Spain to hold talks with newly-appointed Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. Sánchez leads the Socialist Workers Party, the dominant force on the Spanish left before the emergence of the Podemos movement, and heads a minority administration, formed after a successful no confidence motion in Mariano Rajoy’s government.

Like his French counterpart, Sanchez has not shied away from controversial issues domestically, and the pair also found common ground in talks on migration at their first meeting in June.

On Friday, shareholders in 21st Century Fox, the media conglomerate controlled by Rupert Murdoch (pictured with Disney boss Bob Iger), are due to vote on a proposed merger with Disney, which is seeking to take control of Fox’s film and entertainment television assets.

Disney made an initial stock offer worth $52bn last December, but increased its bid to $71bn with additional cash elements after a rival offer from Comcast, the US broadcaster and pay-TV provider, was submitted last month.

Despite scrutiny from US regulators over fears the deal would affect competition, the Department of Justice approved Disney’s proposals just a week after the higher offer was submitted, and late last week Comcast announced the end of its pursuit of Fox to focus on a separate bid for the UK’s Sky plc.

Saturday could see thousands of holiday plans scotched as Eurostar workers at St Pancras International strike for 24 hours. The workers, represented by the RMT union, claim that poor crowd management has created “dangerous” working conditions, with staff complaining of “chaos” at the station, verbal abuse from customers and passengers sleeping on the floor overnight.

The winner of the Tour de France is decided at the end of the 20th stage, a 31km time trial from Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle to Espelette. The leader at the end of this stage is traditionally not challenged in the final stage, which takes place tomorrow, meaning that today’s yellow jersey holder will be crowned the 2018 Tour de France winner after the famous final stage sprint along the Champs-Elysees. Geraint Thomas, Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, and Vincenzo Nibali are all likely contenders to take the crown.

Finally, Sunday marks the 60th anniversary of NASA. The US space agency which took man to the moon was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on July 29, 1958.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

 

 

 

Picture: Disney

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