Portrait of the week

Portrait of the Week: Brexit rumbles on, a panda escapes and Denmark builds a fence

2 February 2019

9:00 AM

2 February 2019

9:00 AM


Theresa May, the Prime Minister, set off to seek a change to the Irish backstop of the EU withdrawal agreement after the Commons voted by 317 to 301 for a government-backed amendment by Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, proposing unnamed ‘alternative arrangements’. Mrs May said there was ‘limited appetite for such a change in the EU’ and hardly had the words passed her lips before Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said: ‘The withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.’ An amendment by Dame Caroline Spelman to rule out no deal passed 318 to 310, but lacked legal force. Amendments from Yvette Cooper, to delay the date of Brexit, and from Dominic Grieve, to set up a series of indicative votes, were defeated. The Commons will vote again on 13 February. The Queen, speaking to the Women’s Institute at Sandringham, made remarks that were obviously applicable to the acrimony surrounding Brexit: ‘I for one prefer the tried and tested recipes, like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground.’ Tom Enders, the chief executive of Airbus, warned of the horrors of a no-deal Brexit.

Violent crime recorded by police in England and Wales rose by 19 per cent in a year. Homicides, including murder and manslaughter, rose from 649 to 739, an increase of 14 per cent. The proportion of boys from black or minority ethnic background held in young offender institutions reached 51 per cent. Fiona Onasanya, MP for Peterborough, was jailed for three months for lying about a speeding offence but hopes to continue as an MP. Alex Salmond, the former leader of the Scottish National Party, was charged with two attempted rapes, nine sexual assaults, two indecent assaults and a breach of the peace, and was released on bail. Sophie Elms, 18, of Royal Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire, was jailed for seven years 10 months for sex attacks on two children aged two and three. Sir Philip Green dropped legal action against the Daily Telegraph that had prevented the paper publishing details of allegations of sexual harassment. A red panda escaped from Belfast Zoo but was recaptured in a garden nearby.

Tesco announced it would close meat and fish counters in 90 stores as part of a cost-cutting plan that will affect 9,000 staff. Fuller’s, whose beers include London Pride, is to sell all its drinks business to Japan’s biggest brewer, Asahi. European Food Brokers, which owns Oddbins, went into administration; Oddbins went into administration in 2011 but 45 branches were kept open. The company behind Oxford’s Common People Festival, organised by Rob da Bank, went into administration.


President Donald Trump of the United States agreed with the House of Representatives to fund federal agencies (which had been shut down for 35 days) for three weeks; the agreement would entail no money for his scheme to build a wall on the Mexican border. America led a wide collection of countries in recognising the opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela (gripped by food shortages and an exodus of refugees) in place of Nicolás Maduro, who retained the support of China, Cuba, Bolivia, Russia and Turkey. The US Justice Department filed 23 criminal charges against the Chinese telecoms outfit Huawei. Denmark started building a 43-mile fence along its border with Germany in an effort to control entry of wild boar for fear of disease.

Adam broke at an iron ore mine at Brumadinho in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil, and a sea of muddy sludge buried a cafeteria; 60 were confirmed dead and 292 missing. The Supreme Court of Pakistan upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s conviction and death sentence on charges of blasphemy. Two bombs killed 20 worshippers at the cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Jolo island in the southern Philippines.

The Greek parliament approved by 153 votes to 146 the name-change of its northern neighbour to the Republic of North Macedonia. A Ukrainian court found the former president Viktor Yanukovych, in exile in Russia, guilty in absentia of treason for his attempts to crush demonstrations in 2014 that brought down his government. A Canadian landscape gardener confessed to the murder of eight men in Toronto whose remains were found in plant pots.                                                  CSH

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