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News diary 28 October-3 November: First Grenfell Tower inquiry report published

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

Boris Johnson got his deal but could not, despite what CCHQ says, secure Parliamentary approval for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, and so we enter this week with Brexit still unresolved.

With the EU still deciding (at time of writing) whether to approve a request for an extension until 31 January, MPs vote on Monday on a motion to hold an early Parliamentary vote on 12 December or face the prospect of the Government going on strike.

The motion is far from certain to pass, after Jeremy Corbyn said that Labour would only support an election if no-deal were taken off the table, so voters may yet be spared the first Christmas election for a century.

Meanwhile, preparations for Brexit continue as Operation Brock, the Department for Transport’s traffic management system for approaches to the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, goes live in preparation for possible disruption caused by leaving the EU without a deal.

The measures replace Operation Stack, which made headlines in 2015 when the economy took a huge hit after thousands of lorries were held up on the M20, and involve speed limits and lane restrictions for Europe-bound traffic.

Tuesday marks the deadline for Kurdish fighters in northern Syria to withdraw some 30km from the Turkish border under the agreement hammered out between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in their 22 October talks in Sochi.

As part of that deal, Russian and Turkish forces are also set to begin joint patrols inside Syria as of Tuesday. Syrian Democratic Forces leader Mazloum Kobani has accused Turkey and its proxies of violating the ceasefire, and a new rift has opened between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump over suggestions Trump could host Kobani for talks in the US, with Erdogan himself set to visit Washington on 13 November.

The Office for National Statistics publishes its annual snapshot of employee earnings over the past year, showing average weekly wages broken down by age, location, gender and occupation.

In 2018, the data showed a 3.5 per cent increase on median full-time weekly earnings against the previous year, which was the first time since 2012 that wages rose by a higher percentage for full-time employees than for part-time workers.

The Grenfell Tower Inquiry publishes its first report on Wednesday on the initial phase of its investigations dealing with events on the night of the fire in June 2017 and the response of the emergency services.

In the run-up to the report’s publication, London’s fire commissioner has called for a specific review of the “stay put” strategy which was in force at Grenfell at the time of the fire. Victims’ families have raised additional concerns that the report’s findings will be swept aside by the ongoing Brexit crisis, questioning the publication coming so close to Britain’s planned withdrawal date.

Boeing chief executive Dennis Muilenburg makes his second appearance of the week before US lawmakers in an Infrastructure and Transportation Committee session on the status of the 737 Max, the aircraft model responsible for two deadly crashes.

The hearing follows the release of the official report by Indonesia into the October 2018 Lion Air crash, calling for improvements to Boeing cockpit systems and better oversight by US regulators. Despite disappointing third quarter results, Boeing is reportedly planning to start flying the new 737 by the end of the year.

In Geneva, the UN’s special envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen plans to convene the first meeting of Syria’s Constitutional Committee, a body established to agree political reforms and pave the way for fresh elections in the war-torn country.

The committee is intended to be a vehicle for Syrian citizens to debate their country’s future at a time when external powers still exert so much influence on their lives.

Back in June, amid the fervour of the Conservative leadership election, Boris Johnson famously vowed – do or die, come what may – to take the UK out of the European Union by 31 October.

The UK’s scheduled departure from the EU on Thursday is now set to be delayed for a third time, despite the Prime Minister’s promise, with crucial Brexit legislation pulled from the Parliamentary agenda and European leaders only left with the task of agreeing the length of the extension requested under the terms of the Benn Act.

John Bercow steps down as Speaker of the House of Commons after a decade in the role, which makes him the longest-serving occupant of the chair for a generation.

Having replaced Michael Martin in 2009, Bercow has watched over four Prime Ministers and presided over some of the most memorable and constitutionally significant moments in the House in recent memory. The latter part of his tenure will be forever associated with Brexit, while accusations of bullying will sit alongside Bercow’s role as a Parliamentary moderniser when his legacy is considered.

Nicola Sturgeon faces her weekly round of First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament in the first session since MSPs returned from their autumn recess. Sturgeon has used the break to full effect, teaming up with Welsh counterpart Mark Drakeford to voice support for a general election.

The call will have at least been partially prompted by a positive set of polling data in September, which revealed the SNP is on course to win all currently Conservative-held Scottish seats in a national ballot. Sturgeon’s party hasn’t enjoyed an entirely worry-free break, however; a recent poll for a pro-independence group also revealed growing support among Scottish voters for remaining within the United Kingdom.

President Donald Trump holds a “Keep America Great” campaign rally in Mississippi on Friday, where he’s expected to drum up support for Republican candidate Lt. Governor Tate Reeves ahead of the gubernatorial election on 5 November.

Trump won the Magnolia State by 19 points in 2016, though the race remains surprisingly close, with Democrat Jim Hood trailing Reeves by just three points in state polls.

Witness hearings in the Infected Blood Inquiry, which have been ongoing since the spring, are scheduled to conclude. The inquiry has been gathering evidence on why infected blood products were given to thousands of haemophiliacs on the NHS between the late 1970s and early 1990s, with many going on to contract Hepatitis C and HIV. Several case studies have emerged from the witness hearings, and expert hearings are due to begin on 24 February.

The Rugby World Cup reaches its conclusion on Saturday after six weeks of pool and knockout matches. The game in Yokohama sees New Zealand or England taking on South Africa or Wales, the only one of the final four never to have lifted the Webb Ellis Cup.

Should New Zealand reach the final, a victory would see them become the first team to win three consecutive tournaments. South Africa triumphed as hosts in 1995 and again in France in 2007, with England’s solitary win coming in Australia in 2003.

Edenbridge in Kent hosts its 91st annual bonfire in which an effigy of a celebrity “guy” is burnt to replace Guy Fawkes. Last year’s effigy was now-Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with previous years’ chosen figures including former glamour model Katie Price, disgraced former film producer Harvey Weinstein and US President Donald Trump. This year’s chosen celebrity is expected to be revealed nearer the time.

Sunday marks one year until the 2020 US Presidential election. With three months remaining until the Iowa caucuses, there are still 19 Democratic primary candidates and three Republicans seeking to challenge President Trump.

Former Vice President Joe Biden is still leading the Democratic pack, though Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has been consistently rising through the polls and could yet become the frontrunner.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Simon Dawson

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  2. Given all that is going on in the world, why continually focus upon UK and US politics? On Sunday just irrelevant US factional infighting, a must for my diary, really??? If my week reflected these ‘key events’ then I’d probably seek professional help.

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