Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Brexit uncertainty, Turkey in Syria and a Chinese threat

19 October 2019

9:00 AM

19 October 2019

9:00 AM


Brexit teetered from uncertainty to uncertainty. Parliament had been summoned to sit on Saturday 19 October to debate what Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, had brought back from a European Union summit. He had held talks before the week began with Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach of Ireland, at Thornton Manor in the Wirral, from which optimistic noises emerged. Margaret Atwood, 79, from Ottawa, and Bernardine Evaristo, 60, from Eltham, shared the Booker Prize.

The Queen wore the George IV diadem at the State Opening of Parliament instead of the heavy Imperial State Crown. Among 26 Bills set out in the Queen’s Speech were seven relating to Brexit, one of them to pave the way for a points-based immigration system from 2021 and others to establish new regulatory frameworks for fishing, farming, trade and financial services. Seven criminal justice Bills included measures to increase sentences for serious criminals. A Bill would stop import of animals shot by trophy hunters and another oblige restaurants to give waiters all the tips left for them. Downing Street said that the Prime Minister would not resign if the government was defeated in the debate on the Queen’s Speech. John Henry Newman (1801-90) was canonised.

Dominic Raab, the Foreign Secretary, said that Britain would not grant new export licences for weapons that might be used in military operations in Syria. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National party, said she would ask the UK government by the end of this year for formal consent to hold another referendum on independence for Scotland. Police, invoking Section 14 of the Public Order Act, requiring protesters to stop demonstrations in central London, began to clear Trafalgar Square of Extinction Rebellion supporters. Administrators decided that Neil Woodford would be removed as investment manager of the Woodford Equity Income Fund, which would be shut down. The annual rate of inflation in September remained unchanged from August at 1.7 per cent. Postmen voted to go on strike.


Turkey pushed on with its military offensive in northern Syria to displace the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces from the border region and settle two million refugees there. Some 160,000 people had fled. The United States froze the assets in America of the Turkish ministries and ministers of defence and energy. Syrian Democratic Forces had been guarding more than 10,000 Isis prisoners. El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, British members of the Islamic State accused of murder, were among those taken into American custody. Kurdish-led forces turned to the Syrian army, which began to move towards the border, but Russia said it would not allow clashes between Turkish and Syrian forces.

Spain’s supreme court found nine Catalan politicians guilty of sedition, sentencing them to jail for between nine and 13 years for their part in the failed bid for secession two years ago. Clashes between demonstrators and police led to dozens of flights being cancelled at Barcelona airport. After the sentencing, a European warrant was issued for the arrest of Carles Puigdemont, the former first minister of Catalonia, who had fled to Belgium. The Law and Justice party won the Polish general election, increasing its vote to 44 per cent. President Lenín Moreno of Ecuador agreed to restore fuel subsidies, to end protests that had brought Quito to a standstill. Harold Bloom, the literary critic, died aged 89. A Vietnamese visitor to Australia, which is trying to remain free from African swine fever, was expelled after raw pork was found in her luggage.

As protests continued in Hong Kong, Xi Jinping, the ruler of China said: ‘Anyone who attempts to split any region from China will perish, with their bodies smashed and bones ground to powder.’ Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong had to abandon her annual address to the Legislative Council in the face of shouting from opposition members. The strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 60 years claimed 40 lives. Two homeless men were turned away from a typhoon shelter in Tokyo. Japan beat Scotland in the Rugby World Cup. Boyko Borissov, the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, called upon Borislav Mihaylov to resign as president of the Bulgarian Football Union, and he did. This followed monkey chants and Nazi salutes from the home crowd at the game in Sofia where England, with Tyrone Mings in the team, won 6-0. A family who had lived in a farmhouse basement for nine years waiting for the end of time were discovered in Holland.   CSH

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

You might disagree with half of it, but you’ll enjoy reading all of it. Try your first 10 weeks for just $10

Show comments