The government drifted towards a vote by the Commons, which it had cancelled in December, on its withdrawal agreement from the EU. British and European officials discussed extending the period under Article 50 before Britain leaves the EU, which would otherwise come into effect on 29 March. ‘We’re continuing to work on further assurances, on further undertakings from the European Union in relation to the concern that’s been expressed by parliamentarians,’ Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said. She even invited groups of MPs for a drink at 10 Downing Street to court their votes. The government was defeated by 303 votes to 296 on a cross-party amendment to the Finance Bill to limit tax-raising powers for no-deal preparations unless authorised by Parliament. Eighty lorries were mustered on the runway at Manston airport and driven to the coast, as if it were an exercise in dealing with 10,000 lorries a day after a no-deal Brexit. The mayor of Ostend said the port would not be ready for a freight ferry service from Ramsgate in time for Brexit. A police mugshot of Wayne Rooney was published showing him after being charged in December with public intoxication following his arrest at Dulles airport, Washington.
More than 100 MPs called on the Metropolitan Police to do more to protect MPs after Anna Soubry, a Conservative Remainer, was mobbed and called a Nazi by a group of mostly men outside the Houses of Parliament. In his own letter to the police, John Bercow, the Speaker, complained of a ‘regular coterie of burly white men who are effectively targeting and denouncing members whom they recognise and dislike — most notably female’. A new ten-year plan to spend £20 billion a year extra on the NHS could delay the deaths of up to 500,000 people by focusing on prevention and early detection, the government said. A woman in Glasgow, with a handwritten prescription for VitA-POS for dry eyes, was given Vitaros cream for erectile dysfunction by a pharmacist in error.
Air departures from Heathrow were stopped temporarily after a drone was sighted. Darren Pencille, 35, of Farnham, Surrey, was charged with the murder of Lee Pomeroy, 51, whose 14-year-old son saw him stabbed to death on a train from Guildford to London. Aldi, the German-owned supermarket chain, reported improved business this Christmas. The roof of the house in Salisbury lived in by the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal is to be dismantled by teams decontaminating it after the Novichok attack last March. A fatberg 210-foot long was found in a sewer beneath Sidmouth, Devon.
In Paris, demonstrators fought riot police and set fire to cars at the regular weekend gilets jaunes protests. Thousands demonstrated again in Budapest against a law compelling employees to work 400 hours’ overtime, pay for which might be delayed for three years. A 20-year-old man calling himself G0d confessed to publishing private information about 1,000 German politicians, journalists, and celebrities on Twitter. Frank Magnitz, the leader in Bremen of Alternative für Deutschland, was knocked unconscious with a piece of wood and kicked in the head.
President Donald Trump of the US went on television to call the situation at the Mexican border ‘a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul’. His insistence on having $4 billion to build a wall with Mexico has led to a partial shutdown of the American government. Christian Zerpa, a supreme court judge in Venezuela, fled to the United States in protest at President Nicolás Maduro manipulating court affairs. Amazon overtook Microsoft to become the listed company with the highest value, put at $797 billion on the US stock market. Bill Timmons resigned as the chief executive of the corporation in charge of an Arizona nursing home where a woman in a ‘vegetative state’, looked after there for more than a decade, gave birth.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey angrily rejected calls by John Bolton, the US National Security Adviser, for his country to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria. Kim Jong-un, the ruler of North Korea, went in his own green and yellow train to Beijing at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. Work began in Shanghai on a huge factory costing $5 billion to build Tesla electric cars. In Queensland, Australia, more than 13,000 people were stung by little sea creatures called bluebottles. CSH