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
It’s a big week for ministers’ attempts to get a grip on the small boats problem without upsetting people on both sides of the debate. Things kick off in the Court of Appeal on Monday (April 24), where a coalition of charities, unions and asylum seekers is appealing against a High Court ruling from late last year that deemed the government’s Rwanda asylum policy fair and lawful. That decision was a significant boost for Suella Braverman after the first scheduled flights were thwarted by the courts last year, so the combative home secretary is sure to relish the opportunity to fight off further challenges to the scheme. The hearing is set to last for four days next week, with a ruling expected later.
After another battle which has largely been fought behind the scenes by different factions of the Conservative Party, the government will then have another crack at legislating the problem away as the Illegal Migration Bill is debated by MPs on Wednesday (April 26). New amendments to the bill which would give ministers the power to ignore European courts’ attempts to prevent deportations and limit British courts’ ability to intervene will please the right wing of the party and are likely to pass easily through the Commons, though the real battle will come when the bill enters the House of Lords. Peers are likely to reject the amendment over Rule 39 orders and may seek to water down other elements of the controversial bill, setting up a messy and unwelcome fight for Rishi Sunak in what could become a testing few weeks for the prime minister’s leadership.
A resolution to the long-running pay dispute in the health system hangs in the balance this week as several health unions finalise their ballots on the government’s most recent pay offer ahead of a meeting of the NHS staff council on May 2. The offer, submitted by Health Secretary Steve Barclay in March following an intensive period of negotiations with unions, amounts to a 5% pay increase for the 2023-24 year, as well as a one-off sum ranging between £1,655 and £3,789 for the 2022/23 year. Ballots on the pay offer close for members of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Society of Radiographers (SoR) on Tuesday (April 25); for members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) on Wednesday (April 26); and for members of the Unite, GMB and British Diabetic Association (BDA) unions on Thursday (April 27).
There is little sign of unanimity across the sector as unions remain split on the terms of the government’s offer. The RCM, CSP, BDA and GMB unions are recommending to members they accept the offer, arguing it’s the best that can be achieved through negotiations with the government, and UNISON – which represents the most NHS staff of any union – has already accepted the offer after a members’ ballot earlier this month. By contrast, Unite is declining to make any recommendation to members whatsoever, while the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has already rejected the offer and is planning to strike for 48 hours from Sunday (April 30).
But industrial action is not limited to the NHS this week: with recent figures indicating the inflationary threat is far from over, the public sector continues to face disruption as unions remain unsatisfied with below-inflation pay offers. In Northern Ireland, both civil servants and teachers take strike action on Wednesday (April 26) after being offered pay rises of 1.9% and 3.2%, respectively. In England and Wales, after resolutely rejecting the government’s 4.3% pay offer by a 98% margin in a ballot in early April, teachers who are members of the National Education Union (NEU) go on strike on Thursday (April 27). And on Friday (April 28), more than 130,000 civil servants who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union strike in an ongoing dispute over pay, pensions and job conditions.
Donald Trump is back in court on Tuesday (April 25) as his civil rape trial gets underway. Writer E. Jean Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in a New York department store in the 1990s, a claim Trump has denied. In addition to the battery charge, which was brought under New York’s Adult Survivors Act, Trump faces claims that he defamed Carroll in an October 2022 Truth Social post about the case, which he called a ‘hoax’ and a ‘scam’. Whether the former president will actually appear during the trial remains to be seen: while Carroll has confirmed she’ll be present throughout, Trump’s lawyer told the court that he ‘wishes to appear’ but wants to spare the city and the court the logistical ‘burden’ of his attendance. Trump has asked Judge Lewis Kaplan to excuse his absence to the jury if he skips the proceedings, but has left the door open to appearing if he’s called to testify during the week-long trial, raising the possibility of another Manhattan courthouse media circus. Trump is less worried about the logistical chaos in New Hampshire, where he’s scheduled a rally on Thursday (April 27) afternoon as part of his 2024 campaign.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits New York on Monday and Tuesday (April 24-25) to chair two meetings of the UN Security Council as part of Russia’s controversial presidency. Monday’s debate on effective multilateralism sees Moscow push back against what it says are attempts by some countries to ‘subordinate the UN exclusively to their interests’, while Tuesday’s session on the Middle East comes amid heightened tensions in Israel and Palestine. There’s currently no suggestion that Lavrov will meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken or other US officials during his visit (though Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya said Lavrov would be ready for a meeting), but he does meet with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Monday, with talks expected to focus on the Black Sea Grain Initiative due to expire on May 18. Lavrov said yesterday that ‘practically nothing has been done’ to address Russian concerns over the deal, including restrictions on payments which Moscow says is hindering Russian exports, while Ukraine has accused Russia of stopping inspections to cause disruption.
Uncertainty over the Black Sea export route continues to have repercussions elsewhere, as the EU looks poised to announce preventative measures to bar direct imports of grains into Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria. All but Romania announced unilateral import bans this week, citing no action after weeks of complaints that a glut of cheap Ukrainian grains and suspended EU tariffs are driving down domestic prices. Exports and agriculture are also on the agenda on Wednesday (April 26), as Italy hosts a conference on Ukraine’s reconstruction. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine, but her coalition partner and erstwhile Putin-admirer Matteo Salvini has been critical of sanctions against Russia. Salvini is scheduled to speak at the conference alongside Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and a host of ministers from both countries.