The Spectator

Portrait of the week | 19 January 2017

Portrait of the week | 19 January 2017
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Britain will leave the single market on leaving the European Union, Theresa May, the Prime Minister, said in a speech at Lancaster House. Britain will leave the customs union to boot, she said, and ‘Brexit must mean control of the number of people who come to Britain from Europe.’ As for EU citizens living in Britain, she wanted to ‘guarantee their status here in the UK, but we do need reciprocity’. She proposed a ‘phased process of implementation’ of a Brexit agreement, but not ‘some kind of permanent political purgatory’. Parliament would be able to vote on the final agreement between Britain and the EU. In sum, she declared: ‘No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain.’ The annual rate of inflation rose from 1.2 to 1.6 per cent in December, measured by the Consumer Prices Index, its highest since July 2014; as measured by the Retail Prices Index, the rate rose from 2.2 to 2.5 per cent. Unemployment fell to 1.6 million and average wages rose by an annual rate of 2.8 per cent.

James Brokenshire, the Northern Ireland Secretary, was obliged by law to call an election in the province, which will be held on 2 March, after the collapse of the power-sharing administration. The Supreme Court allowed Abdul-Hakim Belhaj to sue Jack Straw, who was foreign secretary when Mr Belhaj, regarded by western intelligence as a terrorism suspect, was turned over to the Libyan authorities. A court approved payments by Rolls-Royce of £497 million to the Serious Fraud Office and £141 million to the US Justice Department to settle bribery and corruption cases. A woman was fined £80 under litter laws for pouring a cup of coffee down a drain in Ealing.

The Earl of Snowdon, the former Antony Armstrong-Jones, married to Princess Margaret from 1960 to 1978, died aged 86. Tristram Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent Central, said he was giving up his seat to become the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, which last year ceased to offer A-levels in any of its schools, made plans to open a centre where they might be taught.

Abroad

Everyone took a keen interest in the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States, including those who called for a boycott. In an interview with Michael Gove MP, acting as a journalist for the Times, Mr Trump said: ‘Countries want their own identity and the UK wanted its own identity, but I do think if they hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees then you wouldn’t have a Brexit.’ President Xi Jinping of China, in a speech at the World Economic Forum at Davos, said: ‘Pursuing protectionism is just like locking oneself in a dark room. While wind and rain may be kept outside, so are light and air. No one will emerge as a winner in a trade war.’ President Barack Obama commuted the 35-year jail sentence of Chelsea Manning for giving documents to Wikileaks, freeing her in May. Fiat Chrysler diesel emissions came under scrutiny by the US Environmental Protection Agency and those of Renault by French investigators. The price of courgettes soared in Europe because of the weather.

About 100 migrants were feared drowned in the Mediterranean when their boat sank off the coast of Libya. Italy reopened its embassy in Tripoli, Libya, while rival militias took command of different government ministries. Talks in Geneva on the reunification of Cyprus ran up against a refusal by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey to countenance withdrawal of Turkish troops while Greek troops remained. Syria accused Israel of hitting a military airport west of Damascus with rockets. Because of the danger, the World Food Programme suspended air-drops of aid to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour, where 110,000 are besieged by the Islamic State. Plagues of mice overran the grainfields of Victoria and South Australia.

Adama Barrow, the president-elect of Gambia, was unable to attend the funeral of his eight-year-old son, killed by a dog, because it was unsafe to enter the country, where the former president, Yahya Jammeh, refused to relinquish power and imposed a state of emergency. With 46,300 square miles of the Indian Ocean having been examined, the search was called off for the remains of the Malaysian airliner MH370 that vanished in March 2014. Police in El Salvador said the country had gone 24 hours without a murder, though it averages ten a day. With inflation of 1,600 per cent, Venezuela began printing 20,000-bolivar notes.    CSH