Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Tuesday 17 Dec 2019
Johnson to block Brexit transition extension
Boris Johnson is taking a tough new stance on Brexit after securing what he describes as his “stonking” majority in Parliament. The prime minister is to beef up his Withdrawal Agreement Bill to make it illegal for ministers to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond the end of next year. He may also ditch promises to guarantee that workers’ rights are not weakened when Britain leaves the EU, according to reports.
Biden in pole position to take on Trump in 2020
Former US vice-president Joe Biden is the front runner in the Democratic candidate for the presidency in 2020, latest polls show. Biden leads with 24%, followed closely by Bernie Sanders at 22%. Donald Trump’s claims that Biden’s son was corruptly profiting in Ukraine appear to have actively boosted the Democratic politician’s popularity with voters.
New Zealand releases list of volcano victims
New Zealand police have publicly named 17 of the 18 people killed when the White Island volcano erupted more than a week ago. Two of those on the list are still missing but are presumed dead. Divers have been searching for their bodies in the sea off the volcano. The victims range from 13 to 53 in age and hail mainly from Australia and the US.
London Fire Brigade ‘one of worst in UK’
Government inspectors are warning that London Fire Brigade is one of the worst in the UK, with lessons still to be learned two-and-a-half years after the Grenfell Tower fire. Incident commanders remain inadequately trained and the service is still not managing to attract “the right people with the right skills”, says a scathing new report from Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.
Boeing to halt 737 production
US aeroplane manufacturer Boeing has announced that production of its 737 Max passenger jet will be temporarily halted from January. The plane has been grounded worldwide after two crashes, in Indonesia and Ethiopia, that together claimed the lives of more than 300 people. Boeing had hoped to get the planes back in the air by the end of this year but US regulators have refused to lift a flight ban.
Labour leadership: Rayner clears way for Rebecca Long-Bailey
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has ruled herself out of the running for the Labour leadership in order to clear the way for shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey. Rayner, who had been a favourite to replace Jeremy Corbyn, will instead run to be deputy Labour leader. It is believed that Corbyn will stay in post until March.
Estonia apologises after mocking Finnish PM
Estonia’s President Kersti Kaljulaid has apologised for “embarrassing” comments made by her 70-year-old far-right interior minister about Finland’s new leader. Mart Helme dismissed Sanna Marin, the new Finnish PM, as “a sales girl”, on the basis that the 34-year-old comes from a disadvantaged family and worked as a cashier before going to university.
Barrister found guilty of opera house assault
A London barrister has been found guilty of assaulting a fashion designer during a row over a front-row seat at the Royal Opera House. Matthew Feargrieve, 43, punched 56-year-old designer Ulrich Engler at least once after the designer climbed into the vacant place beside the lawyer’s partner during a Wagner opera despite her protests, City of London Magistrates’ Court heard. Feargrieve will be sentenced next month.
Bumper serving of sprouts as lorry overturns
Britons may be facing a Brussel sprouts shortage this Christmas after a trailer being used to transport the festive veg overturned and shed its load. Police called to the scene of the accident, at a roundabout in Rosyth, Fife, posted pictures on social media showing thousands of sprouts covering part of the road and pavement. “Please avoid the area if possible. Traffic and #Christmas dinners may be affected,” South West Fife Police tweeted.
Afghan war: what has been accomplished?
The Donald Trump administration is set to announce the withdrawal of around 4,000 troops from Afghanistan as part of a wider plan to remove all US forces from the country by November next year.
As the US winds down its role, CNN says that Washington is currently in a state of reflection “about what, exactly, has been accomplished by an 18-year experiment in nation-building there”.