Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week…
As the final week of February begins, the House of Commons and the UK’s departure from the European Union is once again the focus.
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With a further vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal expected to take place on Wednesday, we could end the week with a firmer indication of how and possibly even when our departure from the European Union will happen.
But first: Monday marks the beginning of the inquests into the 1974 Birmingham pub bombing. The long-awaited inquests have been beset by problems, with bereaved families of the 21 victims recently threatening a boycott due to concerns over missing documents and a lack of legal funding.
The threat followed on from a High Court ruling in September, which concluded that key suspects will not be named during the new inquests. An original inquest into the incident, which was the worst terror attack on British soil until the 7/7 bombings, was opened days after the attack but never resumed.
In Washington, President Donald Trump meets with state Governors as part of the National Governors Association Winter Meeting. The gathering comes just days after a bloc of states confirmed their plans to sue the President over his border wall “national emergency” declaration. Now a declared Trump rival in 2020, newly-announced Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders also heads for the nation’s capital, where he takes part in a CNN Town Hall.
Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to deliver a Brexit statement to the House of Commons on Tuesday, updating MPs on the state of play of talks with the EU following the latest round of meetings. With a vote pencilled in for tomorrow, May is likely to use the statement as a platform to attempt to rally last minute support from MPs across the House to back her Brexit plan and avoid a no-deal Brexit.
Remaining in Westminster, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney leaves Threadneedle Street to give evidence on inflation to members of the Treasury Select Committee. The session follows a fall in UK inflation last month, though Carney has warned that the UK’s economic growth for 2019 is likely to be the slowest in a decade.
Another highlight of the day’s select committee business sees the home affairs committee taking evidence on English Channel migrant crossings from representatives of Kent Police, the National Crime Agency, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Wednesday sees the long-awaited appearance of former Donald Trump lawyer Michael Cohen before the Congressional House Oversight and Reform Committee. The session focuses on Cohen’s work for Trump, with the testimony schedule also planning to cover “debts and payments relating to efforts to influence the 2016 election”. Cohen is due to enter a federal prison on May 6 to begin a three-year sentence for financial crimes, lying to Congress, and campaign violations.
As Cohen gives his evidence, President Trump devotes his attentions to the small matter of a two-day summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. The pair meet in Hanoi, Vietnam, with denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula at the top of the agenda.
Back in London, MPs could hold their latest “meaningful” vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal. The Prime Minister has promised some form of vote today, with Chancellor Philip Hammond admitting that a vote is likely to go ahead in the event of successful eleventh hour talks with the European Union.
Jean-Claude Juncker has been typically forthright in his assertion that a no-deal Brexit looks increasingly unavoidable, with Theresa May also facing the prospect of internal party divisions if a withdrawal agreement remains out of reach.
Progress on the Withdrawal Agreement can’t come soon enough: Thursday marks one month to go until Brexit, and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay will mark the occasion with a regular round of DExEU questions in the Commons.
In non-Brexit news, Labour deputy leader Tom Watson delivers a keynote speech to the IPPR setting out policies on the regulation of online gambling to curb exposure and potential harm to young people. Watson said last year that a Labour government would ban using credit cards to place bets, and called for a mandatory levy on betting firms’ revenues to help fund education and treatment for the country’s estimated 430,000 problem gamblers.
In Manchester, a pre-inquest review hearing takes place for the 22 victims of the May 22, 2017, Manchester Arena bombings. At a hearing in October, families were told that a full inquest was at least a year away, as the UK was attempting to extradite the younger brother of bomber Salman Abedi from Libya. Hashem Abedi will face murder and conspiracy charges if he is brought to the UK.
Tensions across the Pacific come to a head on Friday as the deadline for the US and China to reach an agreement on what the US describes as the “forced transfer of American technology and intellectual property” looms. Should no deal be made, US Customs and Border Protection will impose a 25 per cent tariff on certain Chinese imports, up from the 10 per cent introduced in September 2018. Apple, which would be affected by further tariffs, holds its annual shareholders’ meeting on the same day.
To add further strain to the relationship between Washington and Beijing, Friday is also the deadline for the Canadian Department of Justice to decide whether to go ahead with extradition proceedings for Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, who has been held since 1 December at the request of the United States. If Meng is extradited to the US, she faces charges of bank and wire fraud related to the company’s business dealings with Iran.
The focus turns to space on Saturday, when the SpaceX Crew Dragon launches an unmanned mission known as Demo-1. The Crew Dragon spacecraft, designed to carry space tourists and astronauts to the International Space Station, is central to NASA’s plan to resume manned spaceflights from the US and end reliance on Russia’s Soyuz missions. If the unmanned launch goes well, a manned launch is expected to take place in July.
Back down on Earth, the US Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC 2019) concludes after a jam-packed series of events, with speeches from conservative heavyweights such as Senators Mike Lee and Lindsey Graham and former Trump White House advisor Sebastian Gorka. UK observers can watch out for addresses from former UKIP leader Nigel Farage and activist Raheem Kassam.
Rounding off the week on Sunday, Estonia hosts parliamentary elections for the 101 members of the Riigikogu. Cyber security has been a big concern ahead of the vote, following warnings from Microsoft about Russian targeting of European democratic institutions ahead of EU elections in May. Estonia was an early adopter of online voting, becoming the first country to use the technology in a municipal election in 2005 and then national elections in 2007.
Sunday is also a big day for Chinese politics, with the start of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) meeting. The CPPCC, China’s top advisory body made up of representatives from both the Communist Party and other smaller parties, meets ahead of the National People’s Congress, which opens on 5 March. The meetings come amid a slowing Chinese economy and international condemnation of a crackdown on minority Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Parliament TV/Reuters