Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…
England, Scotland and Wales all enter a new stage of their respective lockdown exit plans, as indoor hospitality and entertainment re-open across Great Britain. In England and Scotland, limited indoor household mixing will be allowed, while all three countries will permit larger numbers to gather outdoors. For holidaymakers, the biggest change will be the re-opening of international travel following the announcement of 12 green list countries from which travellers will not have to quarantine, and Brits were relieved to hear that Portugal, the only European destination on the list, will be open for tourists.
Lord Frost faces questions from MPs in a committee session on the UK’s new relationship with Europe which comes after the minister met with loyalist paramilitary figures during a visit to Northern Ireland last week. Frost said after the visit that the Northern Ireland protocol would not be sustainable for long in its current form, and the EU Scrutiny Committee members will be keen to hear an update on Frost’s discussions with European Commission counterpart Maros Sefcovic on possible solutions to the border issues.
Other notable committee sessions this week see Cabinet Secretary Simon Case discussing the Cabinet manual (Monday), Cabinet Office permanent secretary Alex Chisholm answering questions on the work of his department, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey talking quantitative easing and COP26 president Alok Sharma explaining environmental diplomacy (all Tuesday), and Commission on Race chair Tony Sewell talking about left-behind white pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds (Wednesday).
The International Energy Agency publishes a major new report on how the energy sector can reach net-zero emissions by 2050, setting out what action is required from governments, businesses, investors and citizens. At the IEA’s Net Zero Summit in March, which the UK co-hosted with a focus on the upcoming COP26 summit, the agency’s head Fatih Birol said that the world’s major economies would need to work more effectively and closely together to achieve the transition to clean energy. With carbon emissions forecast to rise significantly over this year, in part due to the use of coal power in China, there is a clear need for effective collaborative strategies.
Transport for London’s emergency funding agreement expires today, with a new funding deal still due to be thrashed out. TfL secured an initial £1.6 billion government bailout in May 2020 following a 95% drop in passenger numbers during the first wave of the pandemic, with several extensions having been agreed since. The stalemate comes as business leaders implore both sides to “stop bickering” and sort out the crisis facing the capital’s transport system.
Nick Thomas-Symonds is the latest guest in POLITICO’s series of virtual interviews with leading UK politicians. The Shadow Home Secretary came through Labour’s post-elections infighting relatively unscathed, keeping his job in the Shadow Cabinet reshuffle, and as one of the most high-profile frontbenchers to have served under both Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer he is well-placed to offer some insight into what went wrong for the party on 6 May.
Debate on the Queen’s Speech wraps up today on the theme “a rescue plan for the NHS and social care”, after which MPs will vote on the government’s legislative programme for the new Parliamentary session. One of the major criticisms of this year’s speech has been the failure to address adult social care funding, and while Labour MPs may relish the opportunity to close the debate with some NHS point-scoring, the new legislation will be comfortably approved. There will be more significant battles for the government ahead though, notably around proposed reforms to planning laws and judicial reviews and the introduction of voter IDs.
It’s a big day in France, as lockdown easing continues with the reopening of les terrasses, the country’s more sophisticated equivalent of the humble British pub. Beyond debating Foucauldian concepts of power over glasses of vintage Bordeaux until an expanded 9pm curfew, from today people in France will also be able to visit cafes, restaurants, zoos, museums, shops and theatres as part of a phased return to normal public life in France which is due to culminate on 30 June.
Piers Corbyn, former London mayoral candidate and brother of ex-Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, appears before magistrates over his participation in a slew of anti-lockdown protests last year. At a hearing in Bristol last month over similar charges, Corbyn accused the court of “tyranny” and complained he had been specifically targeted for arrest.
Bloomberg editor-in chief John Micklethwait joins the Bright Blue think tank as part of their Ludgate lecture series to discuss the future of journalism. Micklethwait may choose to focus on accountability, a theme he’s recently explored at a political level in his book The Wake-Up Call, but which also came up in a leaked staff memo in February when Bloomberg laid off 90 people in an attempt to make the newsroom “more nimble”.
In the Icelandic capital Reykjavík, foreign ministers from the Arctic Council hold their annual ministerial meeting to discuss issues including climate change and the wellbeing of Arctic communities. Both US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov are attending, and have announced plans to hold their first face-to-face meeting on the margins of the gathering. High on the agenda is likely to be preparations for the hotly-anticipated summit between Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin, expected to take place in June.
There were encouraging signs for retailers in industry data released last week and official ONS figures will show today how well the sector has started to recover after the easing of restrictions and return of shoppers to high streets in April. The BRC cited short-term pent-up demand as a factor in the growth recorded for its sales monitor, but the growth in online shopping and the absence of workers from many town centres will continue to concern many retailers over the coming months.
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen co-host the Global Health Summit to share lessons learned from the pandemic and endorse a “Rome Declaration” of principles to prevent future global health crises. Leaders are expected to commit to financing to the World Health Organization’s underfunded ACT-Accelerator programme and debate the issue of waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines following the surprise announcement from the US that it is now in favour of doing so.
US President Joe Biden hosts South Korean President Moon Jae-In for his second in-person meeting with a foreign leader since assuming office. Discussions are expected to focus on efforts to resume denuclearisation negotiations with North Korea, a key priority for Moon’s final year in office. The pair are also likely to discuss mutual priorities including relations with China and tackling the coronavirus and climate crises.
Eurovision returns after the contest was cancelled last year for the first time in its history, with the Netherlands retaining hosting duties and some 3,500 fans permitted to watch live from Rotterdam’s Ahoy arena. The show features many of the acts who were due to perform in 2020, though with new songs. Malta, France and Cyprus are among the favourites this year, while the UK should be confident of improving on 2019’s last place finish with songwriter James Newman.
The final matches of the Premier League season see all teams play on one day, with crucial European places still up for grabs. Following Boris Johnson’s 10 May announcement on easing lockdown restrictions, up to 10,000 fans (or 25 per cent of the stadium capacity) can attend each game. With the European Super League attempt still looming in fans’ minds, we could see sections of support once again voicing their continued displeasure at the move once allowed back inside grounds.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: PA Wire/Andrew Matthews
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