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News diary 14-20 October: Boris Johnson's first European Council and historic Saturday sitting in Parliament

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

On Monday, a Queen’s Speech heralds a new session of Parliament but is unlikely to mark a new dawn for UK politics.

The expectation is that Her Majesty will set out voter-friendly legislation as Boris Johnson’s (pictured) Government gears up for the anticipated autumn general election, with last week’s ministerial deployments suggesting the government is already firmly on an election footing.

Jeremy Corbyn branded today’s ceremony a pre-election stunt in a speech previewing Labour’s alternative legislative agenda, so expect hostilities to resume in the Commons as soon as the debate begins.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge become the first UK royals to visit Pakistan for more than a decade. While the exact agenda is being kept under wraps owing to security concerns, Kensington Palace have confirmed that Will and Kate will be visiting Islamabad, Lahore and rural areas in the north and west of the country, and will be focusing on programmes to empower young people, climate chance and the current security situation.

England continue their Euro 2020 qualification campaign against Bulgaria, though the build-up has been marred by concerns over fan behaviour – the stadium in Sofia will be partially closed after Bulgarian fans were found guilty of racism during matches against Kosovo and the Czech Republic in June.

England’s players have promised to walk off the pitch if subjected to racial abuse, though the Bulgarian FA have launched a stinging response to concerns raised by Gareth Southgate.

On Tuesday, the European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier briefs European ministers for the last time before this week’s European Council.

The General Affairs Council meeting also comes after constructive talks with Stephen Barclay, so expect analysis of Barnier’s every word at the scheduled post-meeting press conference for indications as to whether the pathway that emerged on Merseyside last week could yet lead to a Brexit deal.

The second editions of the International Monetary Fund’s flagship biannual reports are published during the week of its annual meetings, starting with the World Economic Outlook.

In April, the WEO predicted sluggish growth and warned of the effects of trade tensions on the global economy, and these themes appear likely to be repeated in this latest outlook. The Fiscal Monitor and Global Financial Stability Reports, assessing the health of the financial system and public finance, are then released in tandem on Wednesday.

Twelve of the Democratic candidates seeking to become the party’s presidential nominee debate in Ohio. The candidates who have qualified to participate are Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Julian Castro, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Tom Steyer and Andrew Yang.

Hawaii Representative Gabbard has declared that she is considering boycotting the debate to bring attention to what she claims are the Democratic National Committee and corporate media’s efforts to “rig” the 2020 primary.

A bumper week for select committees featuring former Thomas Cook executives and Bank of England governor Mark Carney culminates with appearances from seven secretaries of state on Wednesday.

Among those facing a grilling are Cabinet newcomers Thérèse Coffey, Robert Buckland and Alister Jack, while the highlight should be Stephen Barclay at Hilary Benn’s Brexit committee for a pre-Council session on the progress of UK-EU negotiations.

Hong Kong’s embattled leader Carrie Lam delivers her annual policy address to the Special Administrative Region’s legislative assembly. The speech follows months of protests sparked by proposed changes to laws governing extraditions, which have since snowballed into wider pro-democracy demands.

Lam’s refusal to rule out the possibility that Beijing may be invited to intervene is unlikely to cow protesters given the escalation of tensions after the introduction of an anti-mask law.

Barring a last-minute breakthrough in trade talks between China and the United States, US President Donald Trump is set impose an eye-watering 30 per cent tariff rate on approximately $250bn worth of Chinese imports.

China, if past practice is anything to go by, is likely to respond with countermeasures. The tariffs had initially been due to take effect on 1 October, but were delayed ahead of last week’s talks between the two superpowers.

EU leaders gather on Thursday for a final showdown on Brexit at Boris Johnson’s first European Council. Hopes for a deal being agreed in time for this summit appeared to have all but disappeared after last week’s telephone diplomacy, but talks between Johnson and Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and then Michel Barnier and Stephen Barclay raised hopes of a breakthrough.

The UK’s departure is not the only item up for discussion: the EU budget and five-year strategic plan and a presentation from incoming European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are also on the agenda.

Donald Trump holds a “Keep America Great” rally in Dallas, Texas. Trump narrowly won the Lone Star state in 2016, though it is increasingly considered a battleground state for 2020.

Former El Paso Congressman and Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is holding a counter rally on the same evening in an echo of simultaneous rallies held on the Mexican border earlier this year amid an emotional national debate over immigration.

London’s High Court begins hearing numerous legal challenges to the proposed expansion of Heathrow airport. The challenges raise numerous concerns over the construction of a third runway, though arguments mainly centre on the impact on air quality and noise pollution.

Detailed plans for the airport’s growth were published earlier this summer, prompting  warnings of disruption to local communities for “many years to come”.

At the Old Bailey, a man who was once one of Britain’s most wanted fugitives is to be sentenced for murder. Shane O’Brien was convicted of killing Josh Hanson earlier this month; the 31-year-old fled the country and went in to hiding in Romania following the killing in 2015.

On Friday, the United States will also begin imposing tariffs on $7.5bn worth of EU goods following a WTO ruling which found that EU subsidies to Airbus were illegal.

The tariffs are set to target large civil aircraft, but also Scotch whisky, French wine, and Italian cheese. It remains unclear if the EU will retaliate immediately or wait until the new year when the WTO is expected to issue a similar ruling over US subsidies to Boeing.

The White House is due to submit subpoenaed documents to the House Oversight, Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees in relation to the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

The subpoena requests documents relating to communications between President Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concerning the alleged attempt by Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Guiliani to have former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter investigated in return for military assistance.

The World Health Organisation convenes for its fifth meeting concerning the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the last meeting in July, the Emergency Committee declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and this week’s meeting is set to determine if the status should be updated and what further measures can be implemented to aid the cause.

The current outbreak is the longest and most widespread in the country, with an estimated 2,000 deaths in DRC since August 2018.

On Saturday, MPs are expected to be summoned to Parliament for what would be only the fifth weekend sitting in the last 80 years. The session coincides with the Benn Act deadline and will likely take place whether or not a Brexit deal is agreed at the European Council.

It could see MPs being asked to either back the Prime Minister’s no-deal plans or unite behind an alternative way forward, with vanishingly few options remaining just 12 days before the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU.

Meanwhile, supporters of the People’s Vote group converge on London for the final event of a months-long campaign of rallies and protests across the country to demand a second Brexit referendum and demonstrate opposition to a no-deal Brexit.

The campaign enjoys support from across the political spectrum, and organisers will be hoping the march replicates the success of its first major event this year when Nicola Sturgeon, Michael Heseltine and Sadiq Khan addressed hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in central London.

The Rugby World Cup moves into the knockout stages, barring the appearance of another typhoon, as Oita hosts the first quarter-final match.

At the time of writing the game likely sees Pool C winners England taking on Pool D runners up Australia. The two sides have a storied history in the competition, having each defeated the other in previous finals to lift the Webb Ellis Cup.

Tokyo hosts the second quarter-final, which likely features the All Blacks as Pool B winners against one of Japan, Ireland, or Scotland as the runners up of Pool A.

Sunday sees voters go to the polls in Switzerland and Bolivia. The Swiss election campaign had been fairly quiet, but on Thursday the right-wing SVP accused YouTube of censorship after the party’s video on asylum seekers was removed for violating the site’s hate speech policy.

The populist party holds the most seats in the current assembly, but polls show that the new assembly could be pulled to the left as the Green Party and Social Democratic Party look to make gains.

In Bolivia, incumbent leader Evo Morales is hoping to secure an unprecedented fourth term in office as he closes in on two decades in power. Despite his longevity, current polling suggests Morales faces a far closer race than in previous elections.

The 59-year-old has been the subject of accusations that he is attempting to circumvent the country’s constitution to remain in power indefinitely – a view shared by his principal rival Carlos Mesa. Growing unrest over his handling of the Amazon forest fires has further upped the ante ahead of polling day.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Alastair Grant/Pool via Reuters

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