Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: Wednesday 29 Jan 2020

1

European Parliament to approve Brexit deal in historic vote

Members of the European Parliament will decide today whether to approve the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU – the first such vote since the birth of the bloc. The 751 MEPs are expected to back the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement following debates in Brussels, in the final stage of the ratification process ahead of Britain’s exit at 11pm on Friday.

2

Foreign office advises against China travel

The UK Foreign Office has changed its travel advice for China as the coronavirus outbreak sweeps across the Asian nation, with Britons now warned against “all but essential” trips to the mainland. The advice does not apply to Hong Kong or Macau. British Airways has suspended all flights to mainland China, with other airlines likely to follow suit.

3

Trump trial: Republicans need more votes

The impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump for alleged corruption has taken an unexpected turn, with Republican leader Mitch McConnell warning his party that he does not yet have enough votes to block Democrats from calling witnesses. Senate Democrats need the support of four Republicans in order to get the majority needed to hear from witnesses, which would extend the trial. 

4

Pompeo flies in after Johnson approves Huawei

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is arriving in the UK today for talks with his counterpart Dominic Raab and Prime Minister Boris Johnson that are likely to centre on the decision to use Huawei to build the UK’s 5G network. Johnson gave the go-ahead yesterday for the Chinese tech giant to supply equipment for the high-speed telecoms network, despite repeated warnings from the US that to do so could jeopardise national security. 

5

Trump and Netanyahu unveil peace plan

Donald Trump and Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday announced a peace plan for the Middle East that promises to keep Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. The two leaders propose a Palestinian state and the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over West Bank settlements, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the plan as a “conspiracy”, adding: “Jerusalem is not for sale.”

6

BBC to cut hundreds of news jobs

The BBC is expected to announced hundreds of redundancies in its news operations today, as part of a plan to centralise the production of the corporation’s reporting in order to save money. The National Union of Journalists says it will contest the cutbacks, which involve pooling reporters to work across several programmes. The national broadcaster is facing an uncertain financial future, with the Government considering proposals to decriminalise non-payment of the licence fee.

7

Man United fans attack vice-chair’s home

The home of Manchester United executive vice-chair Ed Woodward was attacked on Tuesday night by football fans who appear to believe he is to blame for the team’s downturn in fortunes. Video footage posted on social media shows the hooligans throwing flares over the gates of the Chelsea property and spraying graffiti. Police are investigating.

8

Tony Hall: BBC should go easy on politicians

Outgoing BBC director-general Tony Hall yesterday called for a fresh approach to political interviews, in remarks that The Times interprets as a plea for journalists to “go easy” on MPs. During a debate about the erosion of trust in national institutions, Hall said that he was “a great believer in the long-form political interview where you can explore at length” the policy decisions made by politicians. Ministers have been boycotting BBC programmes since the December election.

9

Hero who saved baby identified as homeless man

A man praised by police for his actions during a mass shooting in Texas last August has been identified as a homeless man. Transient labourer  Lazaro Ponce, 43, was captured on CCTV carrying a baby to safety after a white supremacist opened fire in a Walmart store in El Paso, killing 22 people. Ponce returned to the shop to treat other victims. 

10

Briefing: what Ireland’s election means for Britain

With Ireland’s economy booming, unemployment falling and a short-term solution to the Irish border question secured, the nation heads to the ballot box on 8 February to elect a new government.

As the BBC reports, “under other circumstances, Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Leo Varadkar could be confident of a return to power”. But, despite the positive outlook, latest polling suggests that support for his Fine Gael party is falling and Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail party is leading the race.

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