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News diary 11-17 March: Parliament gets second vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal and Heathrow third runway challenge in High Court

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

On Monday, a trial begins in the High Court in the case against the Government’s decision to back the expansion of Heathrow Airport.

The case has been brought by the Mayor of London and west London local authorities along with charities including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, and arguments against the decision focus on noise, air pollution and the allegation that it failed to consider the impact on climate change of constructing and operating a third runway at Heathrow. The trial is expected to last two weeks.

Universal Credit has been beset by problems since it was first introduced in 2013, and as recently as this week Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd was announcing changes to aspects of the programme.

This time the problems are internal, as staff from two service centres undertake two days of strike action in a dispute over workloads and staffing. The workers are represented by the PCS union and are demanding the recruitment of more staff, permanent contracts for existing employees and reduced workloads.

The ONS publishes the annual Basket of Goods and Services representing up-to-date consumer spending patterns.

Last year’s shopping basket saw the addition of women’s gym leggings, children’s soft play sessions and GoPro-style action cameras, while pork pies and bottled lager in nightclubs were discarded.

The second meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement with the EU takes place in the House of Commons on Tuesday with the state of play little changed after latest attempts at renegotiation concluded in disappointing fashion.

Ministers reportedly anticipate another heavy defeat for the Prime Minister’s deal, and despite Theresa May’s last-ditch plea for “one more push” in a speech to workers in the Brexit stronghold of Grimsby, there is unlikely to be a sufficient shift in the Parliamentary arithmetic to see the deal pass.

What follows between here and 29 March depends on the outcome of the vote, according to a timetable May set in February: should the motion be defeated, as expected, a vote would take place on Wednesday on whether to leave the EU without a deal on 29 March, about which MPs were worriedly questioning Trade Secretary Liam Fox last week.

If that vote were to fail, a further motion on extending Article 50 would be put to the Commons on Thursday, with an extra three months to come up with a Brexit solution likely to be proposed.

What is certain in Westminster on Wednesday is Chancellor Philip Hammond delivering his Spring Statement. Ahead of the statement, there has been speculation about changes to taxation and social care funding, with the Chancellor having also reportedly offered a “Brexit deal dividend” to redistribute public service spending.

The independent Office for Budget Responsibility releases its latest verdict on and forecasts for the UK economy after the Chancellor’s statement.

Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service announces on Thursday whether prosecutions will be brought against former soldiers who were involved in the Bloody Sunday killings. The deaths of the 14 civilians in Londonderry in 1972 remains one of the key flashpoints the troubled history between the UK and Ireland.

The Saville report, published in 2010, concluded that the deaths were unlawful, though tensions were reignited last week when Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley told the House of Commons that killings by the military and police during The Troubles “were not crimes” (she later apologised).

The Ministry of Justice releases the latest tranche of knife crime sentencing statistics amid another spate of stabbing deaths around the UK. The issue is proving to be one of the biggest political flashpoints of 2019: among several heated exchanges last week the Prime Minister was accused of ignoring police concerns about the rise in violence, while Home Secretary Sajid Javid then risked the ire of Number 10 by confirming his support for additional funding at a meeting with police chiefs.

The statistics cover the final quarter of 2018; the last set of figures to be published showed the Criminal Justice System had dealt with the highest number of knife offences since 2010.

On Friday, students from across the globe go on strike to protest climate change. The mass strike, organised by Youth Strike for Climate and supported by Extinction Rebellion in the UK, encourages children to walk out of school for the day to demand action from governments to curb the effects of climate change.

It comes after previous strikes took place around Europe last month, with around 10,000 students thought to have participated in the UK.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds speaks at the Association of Schools and College Leaders Conference in Birmingham, where this year’s theme is “Connected Leadership”.

The conference comes after Hinds was accused by headteachers last week of ignoring concerns over school funding, though the Education Secretary also defended heads against suggestions that exclusions were linked to knife crimes. The event also features an address by Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman and actor and comedian Sir Lenny Henry.

Friday also marks eight years since the uprising against Bashar al-Assad’s rule in Syria began. The Syrian government again controls much of the territory it lost to IS after the uprising escalated into civil war and the Assad regime remains entrenched in Damascus.

On Saturday, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage attends the start of a march from Sunderland to London organised by the Leave Means Leave campaign which aims to “demonstrate the depth and breadth of popular discontent with the way Brexit has been handled”.

The March to Leave involves 14 legs through Leave-majority areas including Hartlepool, Middlesbrough and Mansfield, and culminates in a rally in Parliament Square on Brexit day.

The UK remains very much tied to Europe when it comes to rugby, with Saturday kicking off the fifth round of the Six Nations. Italy take on France and England host Scotland, while it could be a grand slam decider in Cardiff for Wales as they go head-to-head with Ireland.

No matter the result against Wales, Sunday is a day for celebration in Ireland as St. Patrick’s Day festivities take place. In London, the final day of the St. Patrick’s Day event features free live music, dance and film screenings, as well as a festival in Trafalgar Square.

Vince Cable delivers the keynote speech at the close of the Lib Dem’s Spring Conference in York with his overtures to the new kids on the centre bloc having been met with less enthusiasm than he might have hoped.

The Lib Dem leader may, however, find himself with new purpose this week should Parliament end up voting for an Article 50 extension and calls for a second referendum become stronger.

And the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall kick off their Caribbean tour in St Lucia to commemorate the island nation’s 40th anniversary of independence. The tour features stops in Barbados, Grenada, and Cuba and continues until 29 March.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville

Comments

1 thought on “News diary 11-17 March: Parliament gets second vote on Theresa May's Brexit deal and Heathrow third runway challenge in High Court”

  1. Aside from the usual over emphasis of our political farces, the paragraph on Syria is straight from the FCO. Who outside the corridors of Whitehall accepts such a false narrative?

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