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News diary 8-14 April: DCMS to publish online harms white paper and Trump transgender military ban comes into force

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

It’s perhaps no longer a great surprise that the start of another week is once again shrouded in Brexit uncertainty. Despite MPs having approved a bill to avoid a no-deal scenario on 3 April, the UK could, in theory, still crash out of the European Union without a deal on Friday.

Avoiding a hard Brexit is dependent on the EU granting an extension to Article 50, and Theresa May has written to the bloc to request a new departure date of 30 June. Some details for this week are already set in stone, but many are still up in the air; ITV has put together a detailed round-up of what could lie ahead.

One piece of business that is already in the diary is the House of Lords’ consideration of the final stages of Yvette Cooper’s EU Withdrawal Bill on Monday, following a heated debate on 4 April that got the bill as far as its second reading.

If peers amend the bill, it could go back to the Commons that same evening, though it’s currently unclear whether MPs would use the bill to force May to ask for a longer extension than the one she’s already requested.

In welcome non-Brexit news, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport is expected to release a new white paper on online harms, centered on internet safety laws.

Leaks published ahead of time suggest the planned legislation will impose a duty of care, which could see social media companies being held responsible for damaging content which is shared on their platforms. The paper, being published under Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright (pictured), is also expected to call for annual “transparency reports” for social media companies.

The Fatal Accident Inquiry into the 2013 Clutha helicopter crash begins at Glasgow’s Hampden Park with a minute’s silence and tributes to the victims. The incident claimed the lives of ten people when a Police Scotland helicopter crashed into the Clutha pub on Stockwell Street on 29 November.

At the opposite end of the country, a pre-inquest hearing is also held in Crawley for the inquiry into the Shoreham Airshow disaster. Pilot Andrew Hill was recently cleared of manslaughter charges in relation to the incident, in which 11 people were killed.

The International Monetary Fund launches its influential World Economic Outlook on Tuesday. A bellwether for the health of the global economy, the report is expected to target large corporations and their impact on worsening inequality and innovation. IMF head Christine Lagarde also warned of an “increasingly unsettled” global economic outlook during a recent address at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Voters head to the polls in Israel for elections to the Knesset, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking to extend his decade in office. Recent polls showed a surge in support for rival Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party, widely seen as Netanyahu’s sternest electoral challenge to date, prompting the Prime Minister to admit that his party stands “on the brink” of losing the election.

Netanyahu’s popularity in Israel has been badly damaged by criminal investigations and allegations of fraud and bribery, with the country’s Attorney General announcing in February that he intends to file formal indictments.

Turning back to Brexit, representatives from the EU27 meet for a General Affairs Council which should provide a better indication of where individual countries stand on options for the Article 50 extension. Reports suggest that France will once again be taking a tough line on an extension without a clear purpose.

Following those ministerial talks, EU leaders gather in Brussels on Wednesday for the special session on Brexit called after the 29 March vote in the House of Commons rejecting the Withdrawal Agreement.

Having offered an extension of the Article 50 period until 12 April at the last European Council, the EU27 will now consider Theresa May’s request for a further delay to the process as she attempts to find a Parliamentary consensus with Jeremy Corbyn and the other opposition parties.

In a sign of the difficult task ahead of the Prime Minister in Brussels, Jean-Claude Juncker last week ruled out the possibility of a new extension if the Withdrawal Agreement was not adopted by Friday.

With protesters becoming a permanent fixture in Westminster in recent months, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has been investigating the necessary balance between freedom of speech and assembly and the protection of parliamentarians.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick gives her views in a session which comes after free speech enthusiast Stephen Yaxley-Lennon addressed crowds in Parliament Square on 29 March and Labour MP Rosie Cooper spoke in Parliament about a plot to assassinate her.

On Thursday, the first phase of voting takes place in India’s general election. Narendra Modi is seeking a second term as Prime Minister after his landslide victory in 2014, which ended a decade in power for the Indian National Congress party under Manmohan Singh.

Now led by Rahul Gandi, the INC is expected to improve on what was its worst-ever general election performance five years ago, though they may be crowded out by the sheer number of opposition parties challenging the BJP’s supremacy.

Despite a recent slowdown, the rampant economic growth enjoyed by India in recent years coupled with Modi’s individual popularity should be enough to see the BJP to victory once again. Votes are held in seven phases and continue into next month, with results expected to be declared on 23 May.

Israeli lunar spacecraft Beresheet is scheduled to become the first private lander on the moon if it lands as scheduled. Beresheet has been sending back its first pictures of the lunar surface, after successfully entering the moon’s orbit in a tricky manoeuvre on 4 April.

Another Brexit deadline: Thursday marks the date by which the UK would need to legislate to participate in European Parliament elections next month.

A formal notice of poll would then be required by Friday to elect MEPs on 23 May, which would be necessary if a longer Article 50 extension were granted/required. In May’s 5 April letter to Donald Tusk, she said the Government would proceed with preparations for the EU elections despite plans to leave before the new parliament sits in July.

Brexit day 2.0 looms large on Friday, as it marks the date the UK is meant to leave the EU with no deal if no extension has been arranged. Should the EU agree to a delay, Friday will instead become the day the UK begins preparations for the European Parliament elections – a move and symbolism certain to incense leading Brexiteers.

Across the pond, G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meet in Washington DC for a gathering ahead of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings. Global trade disputes and Brexit are expected to dominate the agenda, while German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is due to announce higher state spending to counteract the large current account surplus and slowing economy Germany is currently facing.

Friday also marks the day that a ban on transgender people enlisting in the US military comes into force. Current serving members who have previously been diagnosed with gender dysphoria will continue to serve and receive hormone treatments, but those diagnosed after today will have to serve in their birth gender.

The ban has proved extremely controversial, drawing criticism from LGBT rights groups and the House of Representatives, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi who called it an “act of cruelty”.

Saturday sees the Welsh Labour Party convening for the start of its annual conference in Llandudno, the first since Mark Drakeford became First Minister in December 2018.

The conference comes a week after Labour managed to hold the Newport West seat, with Ruth Jones winning the constituency in a by-election triggered by the death of Labour MP Paul Flynn. Though a final agenda is yet to be made public at the time of writing, Jeremy Corbyn is also likely to address delegates over the weekend.

Saturday also marks the 100th anniversary of the Amritsar massacre, which saw hundreds of Indian civilians killed at the Jallianwalla Bagh when British Indian Army troops fired on the crowd. The death toll is disputed, with a British inquiry suggesting 379 people were killed and the Indian National Congress saying it was as many as 1,000. Commemoration events are expected to take place at Jallianwalla, and the anniversary is likely to see renewed calls for an official British apology.

An increasingly crowded Democratic field in the race to challenge Donald Trump in 2020 sees two more candidates formally entering the fray this weekend. Vociferous Trump critic and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker holds a campaign launch event in Newark on Saturday, and is seen as one of the bigger hitters in the race.

Meanwhile, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg is delivering his own “special announcement” on Sunday; his $7m first quarter fundraising haul has raised suggestions he may be a more serious candidate than previously thought.

To round the week off on a sporting high, golf’s first major of the season wraps up with the final day of the Masters on Sunday. Rory McIlroy will be desperate to end his Augusta hoodoo and become the sixth golfer in history to win the fabled Grand Slam.

For fantasy fans, all eyes will be on the premiere of the final season of hit series Game of Thrones. According to GQ, season eight has the “best season opener in Game of Thrones history”, having already been screened to 6,000 people at a closed and confidential viewing on 3 April.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis 

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