Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: May’s Brexit Plan B, IRA bombs and no one goes to Davos

26 January 2019

9:00 AM

26 January 2019

9:00 AM


Theresa May, the Prime Minister, having survived a parliamentary vote of no confidence, came to the Commons with an amended plan for Brexit which would entail changing the Irish backstop agreement with the European Union. Otherwise Plan B looked very much like the Plan A that had been defeated by a majority of 230 a week earlier. There would now be a vote on 29 January, with Labour putting down an amendment that could open the way for another referendum. Amonportg British MPs there was a good deal of plotting in the wind. Margaritis Schinas, the European Commission’s chief spokesman, said that in the case of a no-deal Brexit, ‘I think it’s pretty obvious — you will have a hard border’ with the Irish Republic. Five men were arrested after a bomb exploded in a vehicle outside the courthouse in Londonderry; it was believed to be the work of the New IRA, which has been killing people since 2012.

More people than ever — 32.54 million — were employed in the United Kingdom, though unemployment edged up by 8,000 to 1.37 million, while job vacancies rose to 853,000. James Dyson moved his company’s headquarters to Singapore. The Patisserie Valerie chain went into administration, Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, cast an acquisitive eye over the 125 shops belonging to HMV, which is in administration. The Office for National Statistics said that 4.2 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds said they were lesbian, gay or bisexual, an increase from 3.3 per cent in 2015. Sir Conrad Swan, Garter Principal King of Arms (1992-95), died aged 94. The Duke of Edinburgh, aged 97, was spotted driving without a seat belt 48 hours after his car turned over in a crash when he was driving near Sandringham.

Patrol vessels took 15 people from an inflatable craft off Kent on Sunday and another on Monday. The two Border Force cutters ordered by Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, to return from the Mediterranean in December to patrol the English Channel were still in Malta and Gibraltar, and are not expected back until some time in February. The Argentine footballer Emiliano Sala, aged 28, was lost when a light aircraft went missing over the Channel two days after he was signed by Cardiff City for a record  £15 million. Mike Veale, who had been in charge of investigating the late Edward Heath, resigned as the chief constable of Cleveland. A German company, Rheinmetall, took control of making British tanks.


About 170 migrants were drowned in two shipwrecks off Libya and Morocco. Luigi di Maio, the deputy prime minister of Italy, attacked ‘countries like France that impoverish Africa and make these people leave’. In Mexico more than 90 people were burnt alive as hundreds of people near Tlahuelilpan in Hidalgo state rushed to collect fuel from a pipeline breached by thieves. Twenty-six rich people were said by Oxfam to possess the same wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.

President Donald Trump of the United States didn’t bother to go to the World Economic Forum at Davos, blaming the government shutdown precipitated by his argument with Democrat Congressmen over the budget and provision for his project of a wall on the Mexican border. But the heads of government of Britain, France and India didn’t go either. President Emmerson Mnangagwa hurried home to Zimbabwe where there was brutal repression of demonstrations. The International Monetary Fund declared its gravest concerns were the prospect of a no-deal Brexit and a further slowdown in the Chinese economy.

Israel launched an air attack on the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards near Damascus and on Syrian air defences, killing 11 according to observers. A suicide car bomb killed five members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces on patrol with American troops in north-eastern Syria; the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant said it was their work. Dozens of Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack by the Taleban on a base in the central province of Maidan Wardak. In Spain, the conservative Popular Party formed a government in the autonomous region of Andalusia in coalition with the newer Ciudadanos and the new right-wing Vox parties, after 36 years of socialist rule. Spanish taxi drivers went on strike in protest against Uber. The footballer Cristiano Ronaldo accepted a £16.6 million fine from a Madrid court for tax evasion as well as a 23-month sentence, which he will not have to serve in jail.                             CSH

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