Stagecoach and Virgin could only manage to run the East Coast rail franchise for a few more weeks, Chris Grayling, the Transport Secretary, said, because ‘Stagecoach got its numbers wrong. It overbid.’ To cut 2,000 Royal Marines and the Royal Navy’s two specialist landing ships, a plan considered by the Ministry of Defence, would be ‘militarily illiterate’, the Commons Defence Select Committee said. Northamptonshire County Council gave notice that it would undertake no new expenditure because it expected to be overspent by £21.1 million by the end of this tax year; last year it opened a £53 million headquarters. The government proposed changes in the law that prevents heterosexual couples forming civil partnerships. Twenty of the Queen’s swans at Windsor have died of bird flu and another 20 are dying.
A man known only as ‘Nick’, who falsely accused famous people of belonging to a paedophile ring, has been charged with possession of indecent images of children. The extradition to the United States of Lauri Love, a student aged 33, accused of breaking into US government websites, was prevented by the high court, which said that ‘Mr Love would probably be determined to commit suicide, here or in America’. Darren Osborne, aged 48, convicted of driving a van into a crowd outside a mosque in Finsbury Park, north London, was sentenced to at least 43 years. Terry Perkins, a ringleader of the Hatton Garden safe deposit raid in 2015, who last week was ordered to pay back £6,526,571 or face a further seven years in jail, died in Belmarsh prison aged 69. The trial of three former Tesco executives charged with fraud and false accounting was abandoned when one of them, Carl Rogberg, had a heart attack.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator on Brexit, visited No. 10 Downing Street and said that ‘without a customs union and outside the single market, barriers to trade in goods and services are unavoidable’. David Davis, the Brexit secretary, said that Britain was ‘leaving the customs union’, but wanted a free trade deal with the EU and also the freedom to strike deals with other countries. The British government’s Brexit cabinet sub-committee met for two days, to try to discover what it wanted after Brexit. President Donald Trump tweeted that ‘thousands of people are marching in the UK because their U [niversal health] system is going broke and not working’. A man who parked at a bus stop on Christmas Day, when there were no buses, to give a homeless man food and clothing, was fined £70 by Leicester City Council.
In the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average index fell by 1,175 points, or 4.6 per cent in a day, the largest, as a percentage, since August 2011. Bitcoin, which had reached a peak value of $19,000 in November, fell below $6,000. A New Hampshire woman who won $560 million in a lottery went to law to keep her identity secret. In Florida Elon Musk launched his Falcon Heavy rocket capable of putting a 64-ton payload into low-Earth orbit. A French judge placed under criminal investigation, on two charges of rape, Tariq Ramadan, the professor of contemporary Islamic studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford, now remanded in custody in Paris.
South Africa’s parliament cancelled the state of the nation address by President Jacob Zuma, who was under pressure to resign. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, said she was making ‘painful compromises’ to form a coalition. Hong Kong’s Court of Final Appeal quashed prison sentences against three leaders of the 2014 pro-democracy protests, convicted of unlawful assembly. Pirates freed 22 Indian sailors aboard the oil tanker Marine Express, captured then released in the Gulf of Guinea off Benin. An earthquake struck the Taiwanese city of Hualien. Moscow had a month’s snow in 36 hours.
ARussian ground-attack aircraft was shot down in a rebel-held area in the Syrian province of Idlib, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, jihadists related to al-Qa’eda, said they had been responsible. The Syrian government continued to bombard the besieged rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta, near Damascus. Five Turkish troops died when their tank was attacked in the Afrin region during an offensive against the US-backed Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units). Holland formally withdrew its ambassador to Turkey and said no new Turkish ambassador would be accepted in the Hague. Banana farmers feared that Panama disease, which has devastated Asian plantations, had spread to Queensland. CSH