News diary 15-21 October: ‘Moment of truth’ for Brexit negotiations and Invictus Games begin

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

After telling the Scottish National Party conference in Glasgow that Brexit would make independence more likely, Nicola Sturgeon is in London on Monday to deliver a speech on Europe and the future of the UK.

The First Minister sought to reassure SNP members that independence would remain a priority without committing to a timetable for a second referendum, so today’s speech will be closely watched for any sign of the Government’s plans for that vote.

Eurozone member nations are due to submit draft budgets to the European Commission for review by today, and Brussels is braced for a battle with Italy’s populist coalition government over its proposal.

The Five Star and League parties’ promises on introducing tax cuts and a citizens’ income coupled with higher borrowing forecasts unveiled by Finance Minister Giovanni Tria have spooked EU officials, and the IMF last week warned of the danger to the eurozone of Italy breaching the bloc’s spending rules.

With rumours swirling that a Brexit deal may finally be close, Theresa May’s Cabinet convenes on Tuesday for a final meeting before this week’s crunch European Council.

The Prime Minister (pictured, left) reportedly briefed her inner Cabinet last Thursday on plans for a temporary customs union and is today set to present the deal to the full grouping, though the immediate backlash from unhappy Eurosceptic Ministers and the Government’s DUP allies suggests May still has some convincing to do.

Meanwhile in Brussels, European ministers meet for a General Affairs Council where preparations continue for the leaders’ summit tomorrow.

Michel Barnier is also due to update attendees on the state of play with Brexit negotiations, and he may give an indication of exactly how close that deal is when he briefs media after the meeting.

European leaders converge on Wednesday for what European Council President Donald Tusk (pictured, right) has called the “moment of truth for Brexit negotiations” at which he expected “maximum progress” in negotiations with the UK.

Theresa May has been invited to present her case before the main session begins and the EU-27 nations withdraw to thrash out their own position. The next steps for Brexit should start to become clearer after this meeting, particularly whether the proposed November summit will be required to confirm any deal.

Back in the UK, Liam Fox is scheduled to speak at a trade dinner in the City of London. The International Trade Secretary is said to have been among a group of Ministers who were considering their futures over the customs union compromise, so this evening’s speech comes at a particularly interesting time.

Other Cabinet members out in public today include Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who faces a grilling on preparations for a no-deal Brexit from a House of Lords Select Committee, and Cabinet Minister David Lidington, who speaks at the UK Finance Annual Dinner. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also fields questions from the Commons Defence Committee on the military’s priorities.

The full European Council takes place on Thursday, and though the agenda includes discussions on migration and internal security the spectre of Brexit will still loom large.

Press conferences with Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and separate briefings with national leaders, including Theresa May, take place after the meeting and could be the highlight of both days.

The third sector will again come under scrutiny as senior figures from government and NGOs gather in London for the International Safeguarding Conference. The gathering, organised by the Department for International Development, comes after revelations in February that Oxfam staff had paid for sex in a number of developing countries where it was carrying out aid work.

In Sochi, Sergei Lavrov is scheduled to speak at the closing of the Valdai Discussion Club meeting. The event is organised by a Moscow-based think tank with close links to the Putin regime, and the Russian Foreign Minister is likely to use the opportunity to attack recent revelations about Russian overseas espionage as Western fabrications.

Mark Carney is in the United States on Friday to deliver an address to the Economic Club of New York. The speech comes a little over a month after the Bank of England Governor confirmed he would be remaining in post until January 2020 to support Britain’s “smooth exit” from the European Union.

Carney has repeatedly voiced concerns of severe implications for the UK’s financial markets in the case of a no deal Brexit; he used a speech in Ireland last month to warn of interest rate rises, and told Theresa May and her cabinet just 24 hours earlier that the failure to strike a deal with the EU could be as catastrophic as the 2008 financial crisis.

Moon Jae-in is in Brussels for a summit with European Council President Donald Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Talks are focused on the EU-South Korea free trade agreement, the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and foreign and security policy issues. The South Korean President will use his European visit to deliver a formal invitation for Pope Francis to visit North Korea.

Supporters of the “People’s Vote” campaign take to the streets of central London on Saturday. The group has recruited a number of high-profile celebrities to help its push for a second vote on EU membership, though the campaign was dealt a blow by a recent UCL study which concluded that the current timetable made it “all but impossible” to hold a vote before the official departure date of 29 March next year. Elsewhere, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage is among the headliners at a Leave Means Leave “Save Brexit Rally” in Yorkshire.

The Invictus Games get underway in Sydney as The Duke and Duchess of Sussex land in the city during a tour of the Southern Hemisphere which began this week. The event for wounded servicemen and women was founded by Prince Harry in 2014 and has been staged previously in London, Orlando, and Toronto.

Voters head to the polls for the first round of Polish local elections on Sunday. A key battleground is the city of Warsaw, where the nationalist movement currently sweeping the country has been held at bay until now.

The Polish opposition have already described the vote as a “historic moment”, claiming that the country could either remain part of the EU or “drift to the East” depending on results.

And Lewis Hamilton could clinch his fifth Formula One world title at the United States Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver only needs to outscore Sebastian Vettel by eight points to seal the championship in Texas, and a fifth world title would make Hamilton the second most successful Formula One driver in history behind German great Michael Schumacher.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Toby Melville

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