Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: EU negotiations, genderless babies and Brexit in court

21 September 2019

9:00 AM

21 September 2019

9:00 AM


‘I will uphold the constitution, I will obey the law, but we will come out on 31 October,’ Boris Johnson told the BBC, adding that the EU ‘have had a bellyful of all this stuff’. After a lunch of chicken and pollock at the Bouquet Garni in Luxembourg with Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, he found noise from British protesters made it impossible for him to join Xavier Bettel, the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, in an open-air press conference, so Mr Bettel continued on his own, gesturing angrily to an empty podium and saying what a ‘nightmare’ of uncertainty Britain had left Europe in. A couple who belong to Extinction Rebellion have been bringing up their baby without disclosing its sex, calling it ‘them’; ‘Once our baby is old enough, they can obviously decide for themselves what gender they want to be,’ said one.

Eleven of 12 judges of the Supreme Court heard two cases on the prorogation of parliament: the first an appeal from a judgment of the High Court, in a case brought by Gina Miller, that the prorogation was a ‘purely political’ decision and was ‘not a matter for the courts’; the second an appeal from a judgment in the inner Court of Session in Scotland, which said that the prorogation was null because of its ‘improper purpose of stymieing parliament’. The Business Secretary referred the sale of the defence company Cobham to the Competition and Markets Authority on security grounds. Sirius Minerals cancelled a £400 million bond sale to finance a big potash mine in North Yorkshire.

British border officials intercepted 41 people in three small boats and a kayak in the Channel. French authorities then cleared a sports hall and an encampment in Dunkirk where 1,000 migrants had been living. Sarah Thomas, aged 37, swam the Channel four times in a row, non-stop, in 54 hours. David Cameron published his memoirs, which said that Boris Johnson ‘didn’t believe in’ Brexit during the referendum campaign, that Michael Gove was a ‘foam-flecked Faragist’ and that during his own schooldays at Eton he and friends had been ‘off our heads’ on cannabis. The Liberal Democrats showed off Sam Gyimah, the former Conservative minister, who had joined them. At their conference in Bournemouth members voted for a policy of revoking the Brexit process under Article 50 if the Lib Dems were elected with a majority. The government extended the deadline for suppliers to install so-called smart energy meters by four years. Rochdale market is to close next month after 768 years.


Attacks on the Abqaiq processing plant and Khurais oilfield in Saudi Arabia disrupted half the country’s oil production, or 5 per cent of the world total. Global oil prices rose. President Donald Trump of the United States said he would release American oil reserves. Houthi rebel forces in Yemen said they had carried out the attack, but the United States insisted that drones and cruise missiles had been launched from southern Iran. Elections in Israel left no block with an overall majority. Helium prices soared because of a global shortage. The hole in the ozone layer over the Antarctic was the smallest seen for three decades.

An EU court heard appeals from both the Republic of Ireland and Apple against Ireland being ordered to recover £11.5 billion of unpaid taxes from Apple. There was an explosion at the Vector biological weapons research centre in Koltsovo, near Novosibirsk in Siberia. Four Sikh men from Punjab drowned in a slurry tank on their dairy farm near Pavia in Italy.

Cameron Ortis of the intelligence unit of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was charged under the Security of Information Act; Brenda Lucki, the Commissioner of the RCMP, said: ‘We are aware of the potential risk to agency operations of our partners in Canada and abroad.’ Personal and financial information about almost every Ecuadorean, around 17 million people, was left openly accessible on the internet. Mr Trump confirmed that Hamza bin Laden, the son of al-Qaeda’s founder Osama bin Laden, had been killed in a US operation. A suicide bomb attack at an election rally in Afghanistan killed at least 24 people and another bomb near the American embassy in Kabul killed 22. South Africa apologised to Nigeria for attacks by mobs on foreign-owned businesses, mainly in Johannesburg, that had killed 12.                            CSH

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