News diary 30 March-5 April: New digital tax comes into force and Labour names next leader

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

Monday

The UK’s trade negotiations with the EU were curtailed by coronavirus after the first round, but talks between the two sides resume this week with the first (virtual) meeting of the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on Monday.

The Committee, overseen by Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič, was established to oversee the implementation of the October 2019 agreement. The limited agenda for the first meeting could leave room for the sides to sound each other out on the possibility of extending the transition period, an until-recently unthinkable prospect that may soon become a necessity.

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Tuesday

Abortion services become available in Northern Ireland on Tuesday, marking a monumental social change for the country. Abortions will now be allowed on request during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and permitted up to 24 weeks in the event of possible injury or health complications. Northern Ireland’s political leaders are firmly divided on the new laws, while a section of campaigners have argued the changes are ‘not fit for purpose’.

The ‘15-days to slow the spread’ campaign announced by the White House and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is set to expire today. While the CDC has acknowledged that the pause may need to be extended, President Trump has indicated that he is unwilling to uphold current restrictions for fear of their economic impact.

Trump has announced Easter Sunday as the target date to ‘reopen the country’, a decision that has been criticised by public health experts who warn that easing restrictions prematurely could worsen the spread of the virus.

A key agreement on oil production levels between OPEC countries and outside producers, led by Russia, is set to expire. The failure to agree on an extension at the last OPEC+ meeting on 6 March sent oil prices plummeting as Russia and Saudi Arabia vowed to ramp up production from 1 April. There have, though, been signs that a last-minute agreement to continue coordinated production levels could be in the offing.

Wednesday

A new tax on digital services, predominantly targeting the likes of Google and Facebook, comes into force on Wednesday. The levy, set at two per cent of companies’ UK revenues, is intended to compensate for the tech giants’ relatively low domestic tax burdens and could generate £500 million annually for the Treasury.

In January, the Trump administration threatened to impose retaliatory tariffs if the UK proceeded with the tax, and the UK’s tough new stance is likely to come under intense pressure in trade negotiations with Washington later this year.

Energy suppliers in the UK face a further decrease in the price cap placed on consumer energy bills. The decrease means the most expensive bills are capped at £1,162 per year, down from £1,179, and the pre-payment meter cap will fall from £1,217 to £1,200.

The increase in people working from home during the coronavirus outbreak will likely see household energy bills rise, although gas and electricity suppliers have agreed to work together to ensure vulnerable people are not disadvantaged.

Thursday

Thursday brings the publication of Lost, Found, Remembered, a book chronicling the work of journalist Lyra McKee, who was killed while covering rioting in Londonderry last April.

Coming just weeks before the first anniversary of her death, the book promises to ‘weave together the pieces that defined her reputation as one of the most important and formidable investigative journalists of her generation’. Alleged IRA member Paul McIntyre has been charged with Lyra’s murder and faces a trial later this year.

Friday

The US publishes monthly unemployment figures for March on Friday, giving a fuller picture of the dire situation revealed in Thursday’s weekly unemployment insurance claims data, which counted a staggering 3.2 million Americans out of work.

More than three million people who have lost their jobs in the past two weeks will be waiting to hear details on the implementation of the $2 trillion CARES Act heading for House approval; it includes both an expansion to unemployment insurance and direct payments of $1200 to middle- and low-income Americans.

Friday also marks the four-year anniversary of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention in Iran on allegations that she was plotting to topple the Iranian government.

Saturday

On Saturday, a two-week furlough granted on 17 March comes to an end, though Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family is hopeful that her leave will be extended as Iran looks to keep people out of prison to halt the coronavirus spread.

The Labour Party’s mammoth leadership election campaign concludes when one of Lisa Nandy, Rebecca Long-Bailey or Keir Starmer is named the successor to Jeremy Corbyn. Polling in late February suggested Starmer was on course for a first-round victory, though the ballot only closes on 2 April so the all-but-suspended campaign could yet be a factor.

A planned special conference to announce the winner has been cancelled; while the contest ends in somewhat muted fashion, the new leader may welcome the opportunity to spend the opening weeks of his or her tenure out of the Westminster glare.

Sunday

As the UK remains in lockdown, Sunday marks one month since the country recorded its first coronavirus fatality. The female victim was a 70-year-old patient with underlying health conditions and had been receiving treatment at a Royal Berkshire NHS Trust hospital. In the four weeks since, 14,57 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Prince of Wales, with the death toll surging to 759.

The Duchess of Sussex takes on her first role since stepping down from official public duty, narrating the Disneynature documentary Elephant, which airs on Sunday. The film follows the travels of a mother elephant and her son across the Kalahari desert, and marks the beginning of the Sussexes’ pursuit of ‘financial independence’.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

 

Picture: Sky News.

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