The Spectator

Portrait of the week: Britain leaves the EU, coronavirus evacuations and a great day for Trump

Portrait of the week: Britain leaves the EU, coronavirus evacuations and a great day for Trump
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The United Kingdom quietly left the European Union at 11 p.m. GMT on 31 January. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said in a speech about trade negotiations: ‘We have made our choice — we want a free trade agreement, similar to Canada’s but in the very unlikely event that we do not succeed, then our trade will have to be based on our existing withdrawal agreement with the EU.’ Britain would also pursue trade deals with other countries. The government brought forward from 2040 to 2035 a ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars. David Cameron, the former prime minister, declined an offer from Boris Johnson to head the UN climate change summit in Glasgow in November. A passenger found a gun belonging to Mr Cameron’s close protection officer in the lavatory of an aeroplane from New York. ‘In a hole the size of HS2, the only thing to do is keep digging,’ Mr Johnson told the audience of the Sky Kids’ show FYI. Half of ten-year-olds owned a smartphone last year, according to an Ofcom survey.

The police shot dead a man outside Boots in Streatham High Road in south London after he stabbed two people with a knife taken from a shop. The knifeman was Sudesh Amman, aged 20, who had pleaded guilty in November 2018 to six charges of possessing documents containing terrorist information and seven of disseminating terrorist publications. He had been jailed for three years and four months and automatically released on 23 January. He had asked his girlfriend to kill her ‘kafir’ parents. He was under active police surveillance at the time of the Streatham attack. The government said it would introduce emergency legislation to stop terrorists, including serving prisoners, being released early unless with a risk assessment by the parole board. ‘Mad Mike’ Hoare, a renowned mercenary in the Congo in the 1960s, died aged 100.

Eighty-three British evacuees from Wuhan in China, wearing face masks, and accompanied by officials wearing full-body hazardous-material suits, were driven by coach drivers in ordinary clothing from RAF Brize Norton to Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral, where they were put into quarantine in nurses’ accommodation lest they spread the new breed of coronavirus. They were joined by another 11, who had escaped via France. The Foreign Office told all Britons in China to leave the country if they could. Two people in York were found to be infected with the Wuhan coronavirus, a Chinese student and a relation.

Abroad

The Wuhan coronavirus had killed 490 in China by 5 February, having infected 24,000. A sort of hospital for 1,000 was built in Wuhan in nine days and another 25 miles away for 1,600. The Shanghai Composite index closed nearly 8 per cent down when the markets reopened after the extended Chinese New Year holiday. China’s central bank injected £16.3 billion of liquidity into its economy. The United States and Australia banned the arrival of foreigners from China. The largest locust swarms for 25 years ravaged Somalia.

President Donald Trump of the United States said in his State of the Union address that the economy was up and crime down; Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker, stood behind him afterwards tearing up a copy of the speech. The Senate voted by 51-49 (with two Republicans joining the minority) against subpoenaing witnesses in his trial on two articles of impeachment; the trial then moved on to a vote to acquit him. In the Iowa caucuses, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders were in the lead after delays blamed on technology. President Barham Salih of Iraq named as prime minister Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi, a former communications minister; the former prime minister had resigned in November amid anti-government protests. Daniel arap Moi, the president of Kenya from 1978 to 2002, died aged 95. President Lenin Moreno of Ecuador apologised for saying that at times women only reported harassment ‘when it comes from an ugly person’. George Steiner, the literary critic, died aged 90.

The Syrian government and its ally Russia launched 200 air strikes on the province of Idlib in three days, according to US special envoy James Jeffrey. Turkey said five of its soldiers and three civilians had been killed by Syrian shellfire and that it had retaliated against 54 targets. In Belgium, where 2,357 cases of euthanasia take place each year, three doctors were acquitted of unlawfully poisoning a woman, even though she was not suffering from an ‘incurable disorder’ as required by law. CSH