Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: More Brexit discussions, Trump meets Kim Jong-un and India launches strikes on Pakistan

2 March 2019

9:00 AM

2 March 2019

9:00 AM


Theresa May said in the Commons that if MPs voted on 12 March against her draft withdrawal agreement with the EU, they would be able to vote on 13 March on whether to leave the EU on 29 March without a deal and, if that was not supported, could then vote on whether to ask the EU to agree to an extension of negotiations under Article 50. Three cabinet ministers, Greg Clark, Amber Rudd and David Gauke, had earlier said they would defy government policy in order to vote for a delay; they were called ‘kamikaze cabinet ministers’ during a heated cabinet meeting. Mrs May had returned from an EU-Arab League summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, had said that ‘an extension would be a rational solution’. Mark Rutte, the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, said to Britain at the same summit: ‘Wake up. This is real. Come to a conclusion and close the deal.’ In the meantime, MPs backed rival responses to the Brexit impasse. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said that if his party could not get its own version of Brexit accepted in the Commons, it would promise another referendum. A record temperature for February of 21.2C (70.16F) was registered at Kew Gardens.

Ian Austin became the ninth MP to leave the Labour party, blaming Jeremy Corbyn for ‘creating a culture of extremism and intolerance’, but he declined to join the Independent Group of eight former Labour and three former Conservative MPs. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary, said: ‘If our new independent splitters have got the guts to have by-elections, we will crush them.’ But Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, convened a group of social-democratically minded MPs. He also said he would monitor complaints of Labour anti-Semitism. Marks & Spencer and Ocado discussed a £1.8 billion joint home-delivery enterprise. Border Force, alerted by French officials, intercepted a boat in the Channel with 13 migrants, including a baby, and brought them to Dover.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, said that Hezbollah, the Shia organisation (whose military wing has been banned since 2008) was being proscribed as a terrorist group. A 16-year-old boy found guilty of the abduction, rape and murder of Alesha MacPhail on the Isle of Bute last July was named as Aaron Thomas Campbell after the trial judge, Lord Matthews, lifted his anonymity, remarking that he ‘could not think of a crime in recent times that has attracted such revulsion’. Olivia Colman won an Oscar for best actress for her role in The Favourite.


President Donald Trump of the United States delayed a rise in tariffs on Chinese goods from 10 per cent to 25 per cent due to have come into force on 1 March. Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, took a 2,500-mile journey on his 21-carriage private train to meet Mr Trump in Hanoi. American-backed Kurdish fighters of the Syrian Democratic Forces tried to evacuate civilians from Baghuz, a Syrian village on the Euphrates near the Iraqi border, where a remnant of the Islamic State army was holding out. The Islamist militant group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, formerly known as Al-Nusra Front, tightened its grip on the Idlib region of Syria, inside a demilitarised zone monitored by Turkey. America said it would leave 200 troops in Syria as peacekeepers after it withdraws the rest. Thirteen French citizens accused of fighting for the Islamic State will be tried in Iraq.

India launched air strikes on a target near Balakot in the Khyber province of Pakistan, where it said there was a training camp for the Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which had claimed responsibility for killing 40 Indian soldiers in February. Pakistan then said it had shot down two Indian jets. The UN’s International Court of Justice gave its legal opinion that Britain should end its control of the Chagos Islands (where America operates the military base of Diego Garcia) ‘as rapidly as possible’; but the ruling was not legally binding.

President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela closed border crossings to stop foreign aid being brought in by supporters of the opposition’s Juan Guaidó. Cardinal George Pell was found guilty in Australia of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16. At least 25 died in a fire when a train hit the buffers at Ramses Station, Cairo. A train with 183 passengers was stuck in snow for 36 hours in Oregon.   CSH


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