Monday briefing: Labour’s 11th-hour bid to scupper Brexit deal | World news
Top story: Critical day in Commons as PM tries to push through deal
Good morning and welcome to this Monday briefing with Alison Rourke.
After a weekend that promised more Brexit action than it delivered, many in Westminster and beyond will be hoping that the coming days provide more clarity. Today the PM is expected to try to win parliamentary backing for his deal in a straight yes or no vote in the Commons, in the hope that MPs will sign off on the withdrawal agreement before there is the chance to scrutinise the full legislation and attach amendments. But Labour has another plan: overnight it declared that it would seek the backing of rebel Tories and the DUP for amendments that would force Johnson to drop the deal – or accept a softer Brexit. Some of what happens today will hinge on whether the Speaker, John Bercow, will allow another “meaningful vote”, because Johnson tried and failed to get it done on Saturday. No 10 will resist any amendments to the Brexit legislation, arguing that the current offer from the EU is the only one on the table and that “wrecking amendments” could torpedo the fragile coalition that it is trying to assemble for a deal.
Our guide to what next for Brexit sets out the potential paths ahead. The PM claims he has the numbers to get his way, including all of his 287 voting MPs (including his brother Jo), about 20 former Tories who left the party or had the whip suspended, and about eight Labour MPs. You can read the papers’ opposing stances on Brexit here, but it’s a brave person who would predict with any certainty exactly what may happen over the next few days.
Air pollution – Scores of people are being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment on days of high pollution in cities across England, including for heart attacks and strokes. Data from the King’s College London study, to be published in full next month, shows the extra strain on the NHS on those days, including 120 more cardiac arrests, 230 more strokes and 200 more people needing asthma treatment. “It’s clear that the climate emergency is in fact also a health emergency,” said the NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens. Previous studies have found spikes in hospital admissions and GP visits on days of high pollution, but the new data gives precise numbers for nine English cities and shows a clear relationship between heart attacks, strokes and respiratory illnesses and dirty air.
Christmas recycling – John Lewis and Waitrose are to stop selling crackers containing plastic toys and puzzles as part of a drive to reduce single-use plastics – but not until 2020. Today they will announce a switch to recyclable materials such as metal and paper. John Lewis has also joined the wider crackdown on glitter (some of which contain microplastics) by reducing the amount used to decorate its own-brand range of Christmas wrapping paper, gift bags and tags, advent calendars and crackers by two-thirds.
Northern Ireland abortion rights protest –Members of mothballed Stormont assembly are due to return to the chamber today for the first time in almost three years to protest against the extension of abortion rights to Northern Ireland. The DUP and other anti-abortion members will stage what is expected to be a largely symbolic recall of the assembly. The region’s near-blanket ban on abortion is due to end at midnight tonight after a historic vote in the House of Commons last July to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.
Renewable expansion – Global supplies of renewable electricity are growing faster than expected and could expand by 50% in the next five years, powered by a resurgence in solar energy. The International Energy Agency has found solar, wind and hydropower projects are rolling out at their fastest rate in four years. Its latest report predicts that by 2024 the world’s solar capacity could have grown by 600GW, almost double the installed total electricity capacity of Japan. The cost of solar power is also expected to decline by a further 15% by 2024.
‘Don’t be a dick’ – Hillary Clinton has been trolling Donald Trump, tweeting a mocked-up letter from John F Kennedy to Nikita Khrushchev, which was intended to ridicule a real letter from Trump to the Turkish leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, revealed publicly last week. “Found in the archives,” Clinton wrote, over an image of what purported to be a letter from the US president to the Soviet leader on 16 October 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis. “Dear Premier Khrushchev,” the “letter” began, “Don’t be a dick, OK? Get your missiles out of Cuba … if you don’t everyone will be like ‘what an asshole’ and call your garbage country ‘The Soviet Bunion’”. Trump’s letter to Erdoğan, in which he urged the authoritarian Turkish president who has invaded northern Syria “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”, met with widespread disbelief, not least for its strikingly unpresidential tone.
Today in Focus podcast: How did a town in West Virginia become the opioid capital of the US?
Chris McGreal reports on the web of doctors, pharmacists and drug companies that made rural Mingo county, West Virginia, the opioid capital of America. And: Emma Barnett on why we need to be better at talking about periods.
Lunchtime read: Lenny Henry: ‘I wish somebody had taught me how to defend myself’
Lenny Henry’s childhood was defined by racist abuse and his mother’s violence. But his new autobiography, Who am I, Again? is also about bearing witness to the time of his early years in Dudley. “I grew up in a period where, just down the road in Smethwick, a Tory politician got in with the slogan ‘If you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour’,” he tells Lanre Bakare, referring to Peter Griffiths’s notorious 1964 election win for the Conservatives.
The book ranges from his infancy to until he was a few years into his nascent career. It ends before his marriage to fellow comedian Dawn French in 1984. To write it, Henry opened up a “pandora’s box” of memories and then started, as he puts it, “to vomit out the chapters”. He turned violence at home into a live performance that would eventually help him to buy his mother (who died in 1998) a home. He used his comedy to ward off bellicose bullies and honed his short impressions sets in sometimes hostile working men’s clubs. At 61, and arguably Britain’s best known comic, Henry continues to push back against racism: “When, in 100 years’ time, we look back at the way things change, we’ll go: ‘Wow, that was a snap of a finger.’ But when you’re in the middle of it, change is long. And I think that’s the problem. Things aren’t happening fast enough.”
Wales refused to buckle under intense pressure in their Rugby World Cup win over France, which bodes well for their next outing against South Africa, who ended Japan’s campaign after grinding down the host nation in the other quarter-final. Eddie Jones has told England they stand on the brink of greatness after setting up a semi-final against the “beatable” All Blacks on Saturday. Winger Jack Nowell is expected to be fit and available for selection for the game in Yokohama. Jürgen Klopp railed at the VAR outcome over a “clear foul” in the buildup to Marcus Rashford’s goal as Liverpool surrendered their 100% record in a 1-1 draw at Manchester United. Pep Guardiola has claimed Manchester City are “still not ready” to win the Champions League because they are not clinical enough in front of goal. Katie Zelem and Jess Sigsworth fired United to a League Cup win over City in a Manchester derby. A tearful Andy Murray defeated Stan Wawrinka in three sets to lift the European Open in Antwerp, his first singles title since March 2017. And the ECB’s Hundred has taken its first steps in an engaging piece of contrived TV theatre when eight franchises handed out playing contracts.
The former governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, has warned the world economy is sleeping walking into a new financial crisis that will have devastating consequences for the democratic market system. Lord King, who was in charge at Threadneedle Street during the near-death of the global banking system and deep economic slump a decade ago, said the resistance to new thinking meant a repeat of the chaos of the 2008-09 period was looming. Giving a lecture in Washington at the annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund, King said there had been no fundamental questioning of the ideas that led to the crisis of a decade ago. “Another economic and financial crisis would be devastating to the legitimacy of a democratic market system,” he said. “By sticking to the new orthodoxy of monetary policy and pretending that we have made the banking system safe, we are sleepwalking towards that crisis.”
Continuing uncertainty over Brexit has pushed the pound down from a five-month high against the dollar and the euro. It’s buying $1.291 and €1.157.
The papers almost all focus on the prospect of a new vote on the prime minister’s Brexit deal today. The FT reports that things are looking fairly sunny for the prime minister: “Johnson sticks to Brexit deal as faith rises in Westminster victory”. The Guardian reports: “Labour seeks new alliance to kill off PM’s Brexit deal”, the i has: “Labour to back deal … if second referendum included”.
Other papers are livid at Labour’s talk of amendments, like the Daily Mail, which reports on “Fury at Labour plot to wreck Brexit”. The Express channels some of this fury: “How dare they! New plot to hijack Brexit”. The Times reports: “Downing St says Labour is trying to stop Brexit”, and the Telegraph says “PM faces ‘guerrilla war’ over new vote on deal”.
The Sun’s lead story is “Bad blood brothers”, about comments made by Prince Harry that he and his brother are “on different paths” and the Mirror leads on an investigation into working conditions at Amazon’s biggest UK warehouse: “Treated like slaves”.
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