Foresight News provides a look-ahead to the key events that need to be in your news diary for next week…
Following Boris Johnson’s national address on Sunday, the week should start with some elements of the UK’s lockdown measures being lifted. Despite some breathless front pages ahead of the latest review, we’re unlikely to see the kind of significant change some on the Conservative back benches have been arguing for, with changes to when and why people can go outside likely among the first relaxations.
The Government is also expected to make a statement to the House of Commons on the announcement, though Johnson was evasive about whether MPs would have the chance to question him directly.
Virtual talks between UK and EU negotiators resume after an April round in which only limited progress was made, and where tariffs, the level playing field and fisheries were among familiar stumbling blocks. In his post-talks press conference, Michel Barnier accused the UK of failing to engage seriously and effectively dragging its feet ahead of next month’s deadlines. UK ministers remain adamant that there will be no transition extension, so the pressure is on to achieve tangible results in this penultimate round of talks.
The Parliamentary innovation continues this week as MPs take part in the first remote votes in Commons history. After swift development and testing, the Commons Procedure Committee last week approved a new system in which Members register votes through an existing online portal called MemberHub.
Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg (pictured), who said the new system was straightforward enough “even” for him, didn’t specify when the first remote division would occur; today’s business requires approval of a Standards Committee report on former minister Conor Burns, while an extension to the hybrid procedures must be agreed on Tuesday.
The Office for National Statistics publishes its weekly mortality figures for England and Wales. The figures are released days after it was announced that the UK had become the first country in Europe to surpass 30,000 deaths from Covid-19, making the death toll second only to that of the United States. Today’s statistics will likely give ammunition to those critical of the government’s decision to begin easing lockdown measures.
The US Supreme Court hears oral arguments in three consolidated cases concerning the release of President Trump’s financial records. The records in question were subpoenaed by House Democrats and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance in relation to investigations into hush money payments and doctored financial statements in the run-up to the 2016 election.
The ruling, expected late June, will represent a major decision on the scope of presidential accountability and Congressional oversight and could have significant implications for the November election.
In Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has seen his popularity fall to levels not seen since 1999, restrictions put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus are scheduled to be gradually lifted. But Putin has largely delegated responsibility to regional authorities, warning them not to move too quickly, and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin has said that the city’s lockdown will largely remain in place.
Russia recently surged past France and Germany to become the country with the fifth-highest number of infections, registering 10,000 new cases a day for four days in a row.
GDP for the first quarter of the year is released after weeks of dire predictions about the economic impact of Covid-19. The latest, from the Bank of England, warned that the UK faces a 14 per cent contraction in 2020, so the question will be whether the official data from March is in line with expectations or if the picture is worse than feared.
With an announcement due this week on winding down the furlough scheme, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s thoughts are clearly already turning to the long-term cost of this pandemic.
Those concerns are unlikely to be calmed by the publication of the BRC’s Retail Sales Monitor, the high street’s pre-coronavirus struggles having been exacerbated exponentially since the UK entered lockdown. Retail giant Sir John Timpson has already warned certain high street names will be unable to survive the current restrictions, joining brands such as Carluccios, Cath Kidston, Laura Ashley and Debenhams who have already collapsed into administration.
Some shoots of recovery have started to emerge in the retail sector however, as McDonald’s also targets Wednesday to become the latest fast food chain to resume trading (albeit in 15 selected restaurants).
The Supreme Court hands down its judgment in a case brought by former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, who challenges two convictions for attempting to escape from Maze prison during the 1970s. In a full hearing held last November, Adams argued his convictions are unsafe as a result of his case failing to be personally considered by a senior government minister.
The case centres on an Interim Custody Order which was used to detain Adams, and which he alleges was not authorised by then-Northern Ireland Secretary Willie Whitelaw.
Radio stations across the UK will be hopeful of a jump in audience numbers for the opening three months of this year when RAJAR releases its latest listening figures. February’s update on the final months of 2019 showed big increases for broadcasters including 5 Live, LBC, Radio 4, and BBC Radio 2, though most of those increases have been attributed to December’s General Election.
The performance of the Radio 1 Breakfast Show will be of particular interest after some 237,000 listeners were found to have ditched the programme in last quarter’s figures.
The ONS publishes the latest round of statistics on the social impact the lockdown is having on the UK population. The figures are being released weekly amid growing concern the social distancing measures are having a detrimental impact on the public’s mental health, with more than 25m people reported to have suffered high levels of anxiety in late March.
The ONS data attributes much of the stress reported to personal wellbeing, job security and the impact of the pandemic on personal finances.
More figures from the ONS, this time on the numbers and characteristics of Covid-19 key workers. While the government published a list of key occupations in April, this is the first data on how many people make up the group that the country applauds every Thursday. The IFS estimates around 7.1m people have kept the country going during lockdown.
A recommended ban on non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc, in place since the second half of March, is scheduled to expire. The European Commission urged the extension until today in early April, but power to enforce the ban has always rested in the hands of individual members.
While many states adopted border controls that also prevent movement within the EU, Germany’s tourism minister recently raised the prospect of re-opening borders in travel corridors, allowing holidays between countries with low rates of infection. The European Commission is reportedly due to discuss tourism plans and borders at its Wednesday meeting.
Barack and Michelle Obama speak at the Historically Black College and Universities commencement celebration. The online ceremony is one of many being organised with high-profile speakers for the Class of 2020, whose in-person ceremonies have been cancelled.
The Obamas have been increasingly outspoken in their criticism of the federal response to the pandemic, providing many with a renewed sense of hope and leadership in an uncertain time.
While the full return of the global sporting calendar is likely months away, Germany’s Bundesliga resumes behind closed doors. The top-flight football league, suspended since 24 March, gets back underway under strict health and safety regulations, including regular Covid-19 testing for players. The highlight of the day’s fixtures is the Ruhr derby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke.
Four of the world’s leading golfers take to the course in Florida on Sunday as part of a new charity initiative. World number one Rory McIlroy teams up (in a socially-distant way) with Dustin Johnson to take on Rickie Fowler and Matthew Wolff in the TaylorMade Driving Relief event.
Proceeds are donated to the American Nurses and CDC Foundations to help bolster coronavirus relief efforts, with some $4m having already been raised ahead of tee-off.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire