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News diary 17-23 December: Former Trump security adviser Flynn faces sentencing and Sadiq Khan to be quizzed over Crossrail delays

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

Events didn’t play out quite as expected last week.

The planned meaningful vote on the withdrawal agreement was pulled at the last minute, Theresa May won a confidence vote the night before returning to Brussels to seek concessions from European counterparts on the Irish backstop, and then suggested that she would not lead the Conservatives into the 2022 election.

So this week, with just four sitting days for MPs before 2019, should be equally dramatic.

First up for the Prime Minister is another appearance before MPs on Monday to deliver the usual post-European Council statement. Having failed to achieve a significant enough victory in the confidence vote to silence the dissenters in her party, May arrived in Brussels with her authority diminished and with EU leaders adamant that negotiations on the withdrawal agreement would not be revisited.

In today’s statement she’ll set out what changes there are to be made to the agreement and may give guidance on the timing of the vote in the new year.

Away from Brexit, the Office for National Statistics is scheduled to publish a review into the treatment of student loans in UK government accounting.

The loans are currently treated as financial assets and recorded at their nominal value, though because they are income-contingent and often not repaid some suggest that the true impact of the loans is hidden.

The ONS review comes after government spending watchdog the NAO criticised calculations used by the Treasury to value the first tranche of loans to be sold.

In Washington, General Michael Flynn (pictured), the first national security adviser to President Donald Trump, is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday after pleading guilty to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Flynn is the second significant scalp for the Mueller investigation after Michael Cohen, Trump’s fixer and former lawyer, was sentenced last week to 36 months in jail.

Flynn faces a maximum sentence of five years’ imprisonment, though lawyers for the general last week requested that the judge spare him jail time because of his cooperation with investigators.

On Wednesday May faces Jeremy Corbyn in the final session of PMQs of 2018. After a surprisingly bullish performance last week, she may relish another opportunity to impress wavering Tory MPs, though the House will likely remain hostile on the whole after being denied the opportunity to vote on the withdrawal agreement.

There’s also still the looming threat of a no confidence vote in Parliament, and even if the Labour Party appears unwilling to start the process for the time being there seems to be sufficient momentum gathering to make it a credible threat to May’s government.

After an inquest lasting for over 18 months, Coroner Nicholas Hilliard is due to return his determination on the death of Alexander Perepilichnyy, a Russian businessman who collapsed and died near his home in Surrey in 2012.

Perepilichnyy was working with financier Bill Browder to expose alleged money laundering by Russian officials, reportedly appeared on a “hitlist” in Moscow, and took out multi-million pound life insurance policies before his death. The coroner has been examining the possibility that Perelilichnyy was poisoned.

Moscow takes centre stage on Thursday as Vladimir Putin holds his annual press conference.

The Russian President has endured a torrid year on the international stage – Putin has found himself fending off accusations of Kremlin involvement in the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, attracted widespread criticism for failing to condemn Saudi Arabia in the immediate aftermath of the Jamal Khashoggi murder, and now appears locked in a stand-off with the United States over the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. Putin begins fielding questions at noon Moscow time (9am GMT).

Two teenagers are expected to appear at the Old Bailey, having been charged with terror offences in relation to threats against Prince Harry. The pair are understood to have been charged as part of a police investigation into the extreme-right “Sonnerkrieg Division” group and appeared before Westminster Magistrates Court last week.

The ONS provides a final update on the economy for this calendar year with the release of National Accounts data on Friday. It comes a week on from warnings that the country’s economic growth seems to be slowing, and the Treasury will be keen for a positive set of figures to offset concerns that the continued uncertainty over Brexit is damaging the economy.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been summonsed to appear before members of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee as they probe delays to the struggling Crossrail project.

The Evening Standard recently revealed that delays to the project are likely to cost Transport for London some £600m in lost fares, while it will also receive a £1.4bn grant from the Greater London Authority to cover some of the budget shortfall. TfL commissioner Mike Brown has been invited to attend the meeting, though he’ll also have to contend with a strike by RMT staff on the London Underground’s Central Line on the same day.

Friday also marks the 30th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing. Wreath-laying events traditionally take place at the town’s Dryfesdale cemetery and Arlington in the United States to commemorate the 270 victims.

With a funding deadline for several departments expiring at midnight on December 21, the US Federal Government could be set for another shutdown from Saturday. The deadline affects key departments including State, Commerce, Transportation and Justice, and President Trump has been characteristically blunt in suggesting that he would be comfortable with shutting his own government down.

The president is adamant that he will pin the shutdown to the banner of protecting border security, so a resolution between his administration and congressional Democrats still seems to be some way off.

The world’s biggest lottery draw “El Gordo” also takes place in Spain, with a prize fund of some €2bn up for grabs.

Sunday sees voters heading to the polls in the Democratic Republic of Congo in closely watched Presidential and Parliamentary elections. The election was initially expected to take place in 2016, when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down from the position following the conclusion of his term in a move which sparked violence across the country.

Today’s election should be the start of a peaceful transition of power, though incidents in the build up to the vote have prompted opposition leaders to accuse the government of trying to force a delay. Kabila has refused to rule out a potential return to office in 2023.

A national holiday is also held in Japan to mark the 85th birthday of Emperor Akihito. The Emperor’s birthday will be his last on the Chrysanthemum Throne as he prepares to abdicate in favour of his son Naruhito in April of next year.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Mike Segar

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