Britain and the European Union agreed on a transitional period after Brexit on 29 March 2019 until the end of 2020 in which Britain can make trade deals and EU citizens will be able to claim UK residency. The Irish border question was unresolved. British fisherfolk were sold down the river, despite an undertaking a week earlier by Michael Gove, the Environment Secretary, and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson. In a joint statement, the two politicians had promised: ‘Britain will leave the CFP [Common Fisheries Policy] as of March 2019.’ In fact, Britain will merely be ‘consulted’ on fishing quotas during the transitional period.
A statement by the leaders of the United States, Germany, France and Britain castigated Russia over the murder attempt against Sergei Skripal, a Russian defector, and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury on 4 March: ‘The United Kingdom thoroughly briefed its allies that it was highly likely that Russia was responsible for the attack,’ it said. ‘We share the UK assessment.’ Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary said: ‘Frankly, Russia should go away and should shut up,’; in reply the Russian defence ministry called him ‘a vulgar old harpy’ or ‘bazaar khabalka’. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, said: ‘We actually have evidence within the last 10 years that Russia has not only been investigating the delivery of nerve agents for the purpose of assassination, but has also been creating and stockpiling Novichok.’ The Russians expelled 23 diplomats in response to Britain’s expulsion of 23 of theirs, will close the British consulate in St Petersburg and will bar the British Council. Police investigated the death of Nikolai Glushkov, a friend of Putin critic Boris Berezovsky; he was found dead from compression of the neck at New Malden, Surrey, on 12 March. Owen Jones, a left-wing journalist, claimed that Newsnight, on a backdrop, had photoshopped Jeremy Corbyn’s hat ‘to look more Russian’; the BBC denied it.
National Health Service staff, apart from doctors, were offered a 6.5 per cent rise over three years. Sir Richard Body, a long-time opponent of the European Community, died aged 90. Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Brenda Dean, the leader of Sogat during the Times lockout in 1986, died aged 74. Garech Browne, the bohemian Irish landed gent, died aged 78. Katie Boyle, the television presenter, died aged 91. The bearded half of Ant and Dec, Ant McPartlin, arrested after a roadside breath test following a collision, took time off for treatment. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will have an organic lemon and elderflower cake at their wedding.
Vladimir Putin was elected for another six years as President of Russia, with 76 per cent of the vote in a turnout of 67 per cent. Alexei Navalny, the most popular opposition politician, had been barred from standing, and Boris Nemtsov, another opponent, had been shot dead near the Kremlin in 2015. Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, sent his ‘congratulations’ and said: ‘Our common objective should be to re-establish a cooperative pan-European security order.’ Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, was held in custody over claims, strongly denied, that he received campaign funding from the late Colonel Gaddafi.
Andrew McCabe, its deputy director until January, was sacked from the FBI by the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, two days before his 50th birthday, when he’d have qualified for a federal pension; President Donald Trump tweeted that it was ‘A great day for Democracy’. Uber suspended tests of self-driving cars in North American cities after a woman was killed as she crossed the street in Tempe, Arizona. Facebook was criticised for letting Cambridge Analytica harvest information from millions of users for use in Donald Trump’s election campaign; both companies denied any wrongdoing. In Washington, Councilman Trayon White Sr apologised for blaming Jews for the snowy weather, after speaking on a Facebook video of the ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters’.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels took Afrin in northern Syria from a Kurdish militia after 200,000 had fled the city. More than 12,000 people fled the town of Hamouria in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, as government forces advanced. In the face of a 6,000 per cent inflation rate, the town of Elorza in western Venezuela issued its own paper currency. Ireland won a grand slam in the Six Nations. CSH