A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Monday (April 10) marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, which aimed to end the sectarian violence that had been ongoing for nearly 40 years and set up the devolved government in Northern Ireland. While the government has remained tight-lipped on the official events, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is expected to visit while King Charles may host a state banquet at Hillsborough Castle for the politicians and diplomats who were involved in negotiations. The anniversary comes at a tricky time: while MLAs hold a ceremony to mark the anniversary this Friday (April 7), the Northern Ireland Assembly hasn’t been sitting since February 2022, and the country still has no functioning government following elections last May amid ongoing disagreements between the DUP and the Westminster government over post-Brexit arrangements.
But luckily for the Northern Irish parties, the main focus this week will be on Joe Biden’s visit, confirmed shortly after Sunak announced the new Windsor Framework agreement. The US president touches down in Belfast on Tuesday (April 11) for a day and a half of events to mark the ‘tremendous progress’ made in the last quarter century. Biden travels on to the south on Wednesday (April 12) for a three-day visit which includes stops in County Louth and Dublin, where he addresses a joint sitting of the Irish Parliament, and a speech on Friday (April 14) in his ancestral home of County Mayo to ‘celebrate the deep, historic ties’ linking the US and Ireland.
After a brief hiatus, mass industrial action across the health system re-emerges this week as thousands of junior doctors who are members of the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association (HCSA) walk out for four days between Tuesday (April 11) and Saturday (April 15). The BMA are demanding a 35% annual increase for junior doctors for full ‘pay restoration’, with the union claiming pay has declined in real terms by 26% since 2009. After previous junior doctors’ strikes in March led to the cancellation of over 175,000 appointments and procedures, experts are warning the coming strike may severely impact all hospitals and NHS facilities.
However, just as one dispute escalates this week, another seemingly creeps towards a resolution as ballots on the government’s recent pay offer for non-doctor NHS staff close on Friday (April 14) for members of UNISON and the Royal College of Nursing. Following an exhaustive round of negotiations between Health Secretary Steve Barclay and a number of unions representing NHS staff, with the deliberate and notable exception of the BMA, the government eventually agreed to submit an improved pay offer amounting to a 5% pay increase for the 2023-24 year, as well as a one-off sum ranging between £1,655 and £3,789. Both the RCN and UNISON – who represent the most NHS staff out of any union – are recommending members accept the offer. Unite remains the only union to recommend that members reject the increase, with their ballot on the offer closing later this month.
In India, a court is set to hold its first hearing on Thursday (April 13) in opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s appeal against his conviction in a defamation case stemming from comments he made in a 2019 speech criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Gandhi, the de facto leader of the Congress party, was expelled from parliament shortly after his conviction last month in a move condemned by his supporters as the latest evidence of the erosion of democracy under Modi’s premiership ahead of national elections next year. The case against Gandhi was brought by a BJP member and former Gujarat minister named Purnesh Modi, who is not related to the prime minister, who claimed Gandhi had ‘defamed the entire Modi community’ when he questioned in his speech ‘Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?’ in reference to two other prominent cases.
The appeals court has already suspended Gandhi’s two-year prison sentence while it considers his case, with Thursday’s hearing expected to focus on a bid stay his conviction, which in turn could pave the way for Gandhi to return to the Lok Sabha while the case is being heard. A further hearing on the merits of his appeal is expected in early May.
Back in Washington DC, the IMF and World Bank hold their annual Spring Meetings next week, kicking off in earnest on Tuesday (April 11) with the launch of the flagship World Economic Outlook report. The conflict in Ukraine and its economic ramifications are set to cast a shadow once gain over the gathering, which also follows recent tremors in the banking sector linked to rising central bank interest rates aimed at curbing inflation.
Ahead of the meetings, the IMF’s board approved a $15.6 billion loan package for Ukraine, and Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal will attend a ministerial roundtable on Wednesday (April 12) to discuss Ukraine’s medium-term needs and recovery alongside IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva and outgoing World Bank President David Malpass. Ukraine will also loom large over the traditional meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bankers scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday (April 12-13), which last year saw US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen lead a walkout in protest at Russia’s involvement. G7 finance ministers are also expected to meet next week, likely to discuss further coordinated action against Russia.
With a host of foreign dignitaries in town, the local think tanks are also chock-full of speakers: two for UK journalists to watch out for on Tuesday are the IIF’s panel on the shifting risk landscape with Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey, and the Heritage Foundation’s annual Margaret Thatcher Freedom Lecture, delivered by former prime minister Liz Truss in a rare public intervention since her short-lived premiership.