News diary 13-19 January: Stormont devolution talks deadline and Labour leader hopefuls face first hurdle

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

Monday marks a deadline set out in the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Act to restore the devolved government at Stormont or call fresh elections, three years after the Assembly collapsed.

A flurry of talks spurred by the looming deadline produced a breakthrough on Thursday, when Northern Irish Secretary Julian Smith and Irish Tanaiste Simon Coveney announced the New Decade, New Approach deal to restore government. At time of writing, the Assembly had not yet been officially recalled to approve the deal, though it says preparations have been made to allow a sitting ahead of Monday’s deadline.

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Almost a month on from a disastrous election for Labour, the party’s NEC last week confirmed the process for replacing Jeremy Corbyn and announced that a new leader would be in place on 4 April.

The first hurdle for leadership contenders is the deadline for nominations from Labour MPs and MEPs. Candidates must secure the backing of at least 10 per cent of Labour’s elected representatives to proceed to the second stage of the election, with Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer (pictured with contender Jess Phillips) making the running early on.

Donald Trump hosts his latest Keep America Great campaign rally in Wisconsin on Tuesday. The rally follows last week’s decision by the state Republican Party to only put Trump’s name on the ballot, blocking any Republican primary challengers. The decision is likely to help the president’s chances of repeating his 2016 victory in the crucial swing state.

On Wednesday, NASA and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) release their annual climate change report on global temperatures and climate conditions.

The report includes a discussion on the most notable weather and climate events of 2019. The record-breaking heatwaves in Europe, Hurricane Dorian and the ongoing fires in Australia are likely to be among the extreme weather phenomenon mentioned.

Vladimir Putin is set to deliver his annual state-of-the-nation address to Russian lawmakers, laying out achievements and objectives. Although there is traditionally a strong domestic focus, the Russian president is likely to also discuss international developments after his recent involvement in brokering a ceasefire in Libya and a strategically-timed visit to Syria.

Back in Washington, Trump is due to sign the much-touted “phase one” trade agreement with China, though he recently suggested that the agreement may not be signed today after all. China has already announced that Vice Premier Liu will be visiting DC for the occasion.

New EU Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan visits Washington on Thursday, where he delivers a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Hogan will be leading the EU’s trade negotiations with the UK after Brexit, and made news in December when he predicted that Boris Johnson would renege on his pledge not to extend the UK’s transition period beyond December.

A week on from his bombshell announcement regarding his future as a senior Royal, the Duke of Sussex conducts the draw for the Rugby League World Cup at Buckingham Palace. The event is expected to be Prince Harry’s first public engagement since announcing his intention to step back from his Royal duties, as he and the Duchess of Sussex look to “carve out a progressive new role” and become “financially independent”.

Harry’s appearance comes after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge break cover with a visit to Bradford, where royal-watchers will no doubt be hoping for some indication as to how his brother is handling the news.

The case of “Soldier F”, the former British armed forces member who is charged over the 1972 Bloody Sunday killings, returns to Londonderry Magistrates Court on Friday morning.

The case now takes place amid questions over the application of Boris Johnson’s pledge to tackle vexatious claims against members of the Armed Forces and with legacy military issues a key strand of the latest proposals to restore an Executive at Stormont.

There’s also a leadership contest taking place north of the border, where the Scottish Conservatives face the difficult task of replacing Ruth Davidson and leading the party into the 2021 Holyrood elections.

Interim leader Jackson Carlaw, the first declared candidate, faces a potential challenge from social security spokesperson Michelle Ballantyne providing she receives the required 100 nominations from party members by the end of the day.

Keir Starmer and fellow candidate Lisa Nandy, who reportedly impressed MPs at a PLP hustings last week, are among the headline speakers at the Fabian Society’s annual new year conference on Saturday.

The pair’s leadership pitches will be accompanied by analysis of Labour’s election performance from senior MPs including Hilary Benn, Dawn Butler and Rachel Reeves and a speech by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the start of his own election year.

Controversial fighter Conor McGregor returns to the UFC for the first time in almost 18 months as he faces “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone. McGregor’s last MMA appearance in October 2018 saw him lose to Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov in a match for the UFC Lightweight Championship. Victory for McGregor could lead to a rematch with Nurmagomedov or a potential Welterweight title fight against Kamaru Usman later this year.

On Sunday, Genocide Memorial Day commemorates all those who have died or been affected by genocide. The day comes a month after Nobel peace prize laureate and State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi appeared at The Hague to defend her Government against accusations of carrying out a genocide of the minority Rohingya Muslim community in the country.

And finally it’s Orthodox Epiphany, notably celebrated in Russia (as well as in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union) with a dip in icy water. President Putin, no stranger to the topless photo op, typically gets involved.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via Reuters

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