Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Tories against Brexit, the Salisbury poisoning and Sweden’s election

15 September 2018

9:00 AM

15 September 2018

9:00 AM


Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, was said to want to throw a lifeline to Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, but he insisted: ‘It is not possible to get freedom for goods without freedom for services, in particular for the movement of people.’ Up to 80 Tory MPs would vote against the government’s plan hatched at Chequers in July, Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, said. A few dozen members of the European Research Group met to see how they might make best use of rules on Conservative leadership election. The Trades Union Congress said it could throw its ‘full weight’ behind a referendum on the final Brexit deal. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, wrote in the Mail on Sunday that ‘under the Chequers proposal… We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution — and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.’ Political opponents picked on Mr Johnson’s use of language. ‘This marks one of the most disgusting moments in modern British politics. I’m sorry, but this is the political end of Boris Johnson. If it isn’t now, I will make sure it is later,’ said Sir Alan Duncan, a Foreign Office minister. Mr Johnson and his wife of 25 years, Marina Wheeler, had announced two days earlier that they had separated and would divorce.

At a UN Security Council meeting, the United States, France, Germany and Canada agreed with the British conclusion that the Russian government ‘almost certainly’ approved the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March. Britain named two suspects, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, working for the GRU, the Russian foreign military intelligence body. President Vladimir Putin of Russia said he had found the men, but insisted they were civilians and innocent. The Boundary Commission laid before Parliament plans for reducing constituencies from 650 to 600. Alastair Cook scored a century in his last Test match.

Mark Carney will remain Governor of the Bank of England until the end of January 2020. The British economy grew by 0.3 per cent in July. Waterstones, with 283 shops, is to buy Foyles to ‘champion real bookshops’ against online rivals. Debenhams hired KPMG to help find ways to meet a downturn in trading. Network Rail is to sell its 5,200 commercial properties, mostly railway arches, to raise £1.46 billion. British Airways discovered a data theft of name, email address and credit card information from 380,000 transactions. The Admiralty Marshal put up for sale the 2,151-ton supply ship Malaviya Twenty, stuck in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, since June 2016 with crew unpaid.


In the Swedish elections, the nationalist Sweden Democrats won 17.6 per cent of the vote (up from 12.9 in the previous election), with the ruling Social Democrat and Left coalition getting 40.6 per cent and the centre Alliance coalition 40.3 per cent. The European Parliament considered disciplinary proceedings against Hungary for its attitude to migrants. More than 100 migrants died off Libya at the beginning of September, according to Médecins Sans Frontières, when their rubber vessel sank. In China, Jack Ma, who in 1999 co-founded Alibaba, now one of the world’s biggest internet companies, is to resign as its executive chairman next year to concentrate on philanthropy. India’s Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Section 377 of the penal code, which in 1861 made illegal ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal’.

Syria and Russia carried out air raids on rebel positions in the province of Idlib. Russia began a military exercise with 300,000 men in eastern Siberia. George Papadopoulos, a volunteer foreign policy advisor to Donald Trump’s election campaign, was jailed for 14 days, having pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about the timing of meetings with alleged go-betweens with Moscow. The governor of South Carolina ordered the evacuation of a million people from the coast to avoid Hurricane Florence. The film actor Burt Reynolds died aged 82.

The Cortlandt Street station on the New York City subway, destroyed on 11 September 2001, opened again after being rebuilt for $181.8 million. Serena Williams shouted at the umpire at the American Open final, smashed her racket to pieces on the court, and was given a game penalty; to the referee she said ‘There are men out here that do a lot worse, but because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me?’ She lost to Naomi Osaka of Japan, aged 20.            CSH

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