Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Theresa May goes to Brussels and Donald Trump to hold North Korea summit

9 February 2019

9:00 AM

9 February 2019

9:00 AM


Theresa May, the Prime Minister, went off to Brussels again to talk about ‘alternative arrangements’, for which parliament had voted, to the Irish backstop in her EU withdrawal agreement, which parliament had rejected. First she gave a speech in Northern Ireland, saying: ‘There is no suggestion that we are not going to ensure in the future there is provision for this insurance policy… the backstop.’ Lord Trimble (once an Ulster Unionist, now Conservative), the winner of a Nobel Peace Prize, said he was ‘exploring’ the possibility of a legal challenge to May’s deal on the grounds that it undermines the Belfast Agreement of 1998. The coroner for Northern Ireland said deaths from counterfeit versions of Xanax, an anti-anxiety drug not prescribed in the NHS, had doubled from 26 in 2017; in Scotland deaths had risen from 24 in 2016 to 99 in 2017. The actor Liam Neeson, from Ballymena, said that, after a friend told him she had been raped by a black man, he went round with a cosh ‘hoping some “black bastard” would come out of a pub and have a go at me… so I could kill him.’

May was not planning an election for 6 June, Downing Street insisted. After Nissan announced it would not develop its future model the X-Trail 4×4 in Sunderland, someone leaked the letter that the government had secretly sent it, promising £61 million for research and development, if it was made in Britain. Ryanair posted a loss of £17.2 million for the last three months of 2018. The wreckage of the light aircraft lost on 21 January while carrying Emiliano Sala, the footballer, and a pilot, David Ibbotson, was found on the seabed near Guernsey

A single-night snapshot of rough-sleepers found 4,677 in England in autumn 2018, 1,283 of them in London; in autumn 2010 the estimate for England had been 1,768. A Ugandan mother from east London became the first person to be convicted of female genital mutilation. A scheme was put together to allow Interserve (for which 45,000 people work) to cope with its debts of £600 million. TSB blamed its computer failure in 2018 for a pre-tax loss of £105.4 million. Doug Putman, a Canadian music-shop entrepreneur, is buying 100 HMV shops in Britain out of administration. Stewart Adams, who led the research team which invented ibuprofen, died aged 95. William Davis, the German-born editor of Punch from 1968 to 1977, died aged 85. John Humphrys, aged 75, said he would leave Today on Radio 4 this year.


The French economy shrank a little in January, even though the 12th week of gilets jaunes anti-government protests proved less violent than before. After two quarters of recession, Italy’s economy shrank a little more in January. A finance ministry document obtained by Reuters showed that Germany faced annual budget shortfalls of €5 billion until 2023 because of falling tax revenues in an economic slowdown. Ten people died in a fire in an eight-storey 1970s building in south-western Paris. French aircraft, in support of the army of Chad, launched two strikes on a column of 40 vehicles that had crossed into Libya. A first world war grenade was found in a shipment of potatoes sent from France to a crisp factory in Hong Kong.

President Donald Trump of the United States said in his State of the Union address that he would hold a second nuclear summit this month with the ruler of North Korea. Britain and 16 other European countries followed the United States in recognising Juan Guaidó, the president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as interim president of the country in place of Nicolás Maduro. The anti-corruption Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, claimed victory in El Salvador’s presidential election. President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil spent the week in hospital following the reversal of a colostomy performed after he was stabbed while campaigning last year. US officials accused a rapper called 21 Savage of being English and set about trying to deport him. The Pope visited Abu Dhabi.

Russia said it was planning new land-based missile systems after it followed the US in suspending the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, signed in 1987, which America said Russia had breached. Twelve Russian athletes, including the 2012 Olympic high-jump winner, were banned for doping by the court of arbitration for sport. Thousands of passengers were left stranded after air regulators grounded Turkmenistan Airlines for safety reasons.                              CSH

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