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News diary 18-24 March: Tommy Robinson and 'yellow vest' activist James Goddard both due in court

James Goddard

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

In a week which could see a third “meaningful vote”, a frantic round of diplomacy takes place as EU leaders seek a solution to the Brexit impasse.

On Monday European Council President Donald Tusk meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin before holding talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris a few hours later.

Tusk follows up his discussions on the continent by meeting Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar the following day, with the discussions ahead of the European Council later this week sure to be dominated by a single issue.

Meanwhile in Brussels, ministers from the EU Foreign Affairs Council meet for discussions on China and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the humanitarian situation in Yemen.

The implementation of the Stockholm Agreement, reached in December 2018 between Yemeni factions, is set to be considered in what many hope will be the beginning of a new chapter for the war-torn, divided country.

The annual Oxford Media Convention opens with Digital Minister Margot James among the keynote speakers. This year’s event is focused on the threat of fake news and misinformation and media freedom. BBC chairman David Clementi and New York Times chief executive Mark Thompson are also among speakers.

On Tuesday, the ONS publishes the latest data for employment and productivity. February’s estimates showed that the number of those in work increased to a record high while unemployment fell, though the number of unfilled vacancies were at their highest level since records began in 2001.

After becoming the first MP to appear in a voting lobby while wearing an electronic tag, Fiona Onasanya faces a recall petition to remove her from her Peterborough seat following her conviction for perverting the course of justice in a speeding case.

The former Labour MP was jailed for three months but refused to step down in the face of significant criticism. She will be required to contest a by-election if 10 per cent of eligible voters in her constituency vote for a recall.

Two further court cases with a Parliamentary angle take place today: yellow vest protester James Goddard (pictured) is charged with harassment and two public order offences against a police officer following two incidents in which MP Anna Soubry was labelled a “Nazi”, while John Murphy is also charged with assault by beating after allegedly hitting Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn over the head with an egg.

Across the pond, Donald Trump meets with Jair Bolsonaro, his Brazilian counterpart who was elected on a populist platform and has been referred to as the “Brazilian Trump”.

The meeting between the leaders, who have been mutually complimentary in the past, is expected to focus on their plans to tackle the Venezuelan crisis as well as boosting the two countries’ trade and co-operation links.

After several days of high drama in Parliament, which saw the Withdrawal Agreement rejected for a second time and MPs ostensibly rule-out a no-deal, Wednesday marks the deadline for MPs to agree on a Brexit deal.

In an attempt to bring recalcitrant Tory MPs on board, the Prime Minister warned after her defeat last week that if the Withdrawal Agreement were not agreed by today, she would likely be required to seek a long extension to Article 50.

Away from Westminster, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall continue their tour of the Caribbean with a stop in St Vincent and the Grenadines. The royals’ schedule this week also includes a visit to St Kitts and Nevis on Thursday and the beginning of a three-day stay in Cuba on Sunday.

EU leaders gather in Brussels on Thursday for what was expected to be the last European Council involving a UK Prime Minister. After the dramatic trio of Parliamentary votes, Theresa May is now likely to use the gathering to seek an extension to Article 50.

However, in the run up to the summit Michel Barnier issued a typically bullish statement questioning why the bloc would sign off on an extension given that negotiations have now concluded.

Teenager Aaron Campbell is due to be sentenced at Glasgow’s High Court after being convicted of the murder of Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute last summer.

Campbell was found guilty of the abduction, rape, and murder of the six-year-old last month, in a crime which judge Lord Matthews described as “one of the most wicked and evil the court has ever heard”. A reporting restriction which preventing the naming of Campbell during the course of his trial was lifted following his conviction.

On Friday, prayer services take place at mosques in New Zealand a week on from the attacks in Christchurch, in which 49 people were killed in suspected right-wing terrorist attacks on two mosques.

A funeral service is held for Paul Flynn, the Welsh Labour MP who represented the Newport West constituency from 1987 until his death last month.

Flynn spent the majority of his career on the back benches after resigning from Neil Kinnock’s shadow cabinet in 1990, but made a return to the front benches in his 80s as Shadow Commons Leader and then Shadow Welsh Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn in 2016.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, better known as Tommy Robinson, is due before the High Court in a contempt case which was referred to Attorney General Geoffrey Cox in October.

The right-wing English Defence League founder, who has re-branded as a citizen journalist and adviser to UKIP’s Gerard Batten, is alleged to have committed contempt of court by broadcasting footage from a criminal trial on social media.

And, extension pending, there is at time of writing one week to go until the UK’s scheduled exit from the European Union under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty.

For those for whom an extension is not enough, the People’s Vote campaign hosts its Put It To The People march in London on Saturday to demand a second referendum on the final Brexit deal.

The campaign appeared to lose official opposition support last week when a spokesperson for Jeremy Corbyn suggested that the second significant Commons defeat for Theresa May’s deal meant the party could no longer back a further public vote. A march organised by the campaign last year attracted hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, though the campaign’s estimated crowd sizes have been disputed.

State elections take place in New South Wales where Labor and the Liberals, the dominant forces in Australian national politics, face a challenge in a tight race from a number of smaller parties including Keep Sydney Open and Voluntary Euthanasia.

Early voting opened last week, though technical issues with Electoral Commission computer systems led to people being turned away from pre-polling stations.

And in Nigeria voters in some states return to the polls for the third time this year after the country’s electoral commission ruled that seven governorship elections on 9 March were inconclusive.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC party won in 13 states, with the opposition PDP victorious in nine others and leading in five of the abandoned votes.

Thai voters also elect a new parliament and prime minister on Sunday in the first elections since a military coup in 2014 saw General Prayuth Chan-ocha installed as the country’s leader. General Prayuth is on the ballot for the pro-military Palang Pracharath, though his chances of retaining power are not certain.

The contest features a raft of opposition parties seeking to appeal to younger voters, several of which are allied to exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. An aborted attempt by former princess Ubolratana Mahidol, the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, to stand as a candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart party led to its dissolution after swift disapprobation from the royal family.

The annual policy conference hosted by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee begins in Washington with a host of high-profile figures from US politics again on the roster of speakers.

However, as the Israeli election campaign begins to heat up, the most noteworthy attendees at the three-day event are embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz, the retired IDF general who will rival Netanyahu for the premiership in April.

And Sunday marks the 75th anniversary of an infamous attempt by Allied prisoners of war to escape the Stalag Luft III camp in Germany. The attempt involved months of preparation and the digging of three tunnels and would go on to be immortalised on screen as The Great Escape.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson

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