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
While Parliament is in recess this week, there will be no rest for Home Office officials dealing with the fallout from Wednesday’s announcement on using ex-military bases for housing asylum seekers as the government braces itself for a raft of legal challenges. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick told the Commons that sites in Lincolnshire, Essex and East Sussex had been identified that could house ‘several thousand’ migrants and relieve the pressure on hotels across the country. But the government faces a backlash from its own ranks over the plan – Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has criticised plans to house migrants at a former RAF base in his constituency, while the Conservative council at Braintree has decided to take the matter a step further, appealing to the High Court for an injunction to stop any arrivals. A date for the hearing hasn’t been set yet, but is expected early next week.
The Home Office will be waiting anxiously to see if councils at the other sites earmarked for temporary asylum accomodation, at Scampton in Lincolnshire, and Bexhill in East Sussex, also seek legal action, which could bring the whole process to a halt. West Lindsey District Council confirmed it had put measures in place to take necessary legal action, and historians have protested against the use of RAF Scampton, the home of the Dambusters. The plan has also been met with criticism from human rights campaigners, including the Refugee Council, which warned of ‘great human misery at huge cost’. A fourth site is planned in Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s own constituency at Catterick Garrison in North Yorkshire, which Jenrick claimed shows the PM is displaying leadership on the issue.
The National Education Union, which represents 510,000 teachers and support staff, begins its annual conference on Monday (April 3) with an announcement of the results of the online ballot of members on the government’s most recent pay offer, which closes on Sunday (April 2). The offer, submitted after an exhaustive round of talks between unions and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan in mid-March, promises a 4.3% consolidated pay rise for most teachers for the 2023/24 year in an addition to a one-off £1,000 payment for the 2022/23 year. The NEU is recommending that members reject the offer on the basis that the 4.3% figure lags far behind inflation and as of now is not fully funded, meaning as many as 58% of all schools would have to make spending cuts to afford the rise. If the offer is rejected, the union’s National Executive Committee has pledged more national strikes for April 27 and May 2. The NAHT and NASUWT education unions are also balloting their members on the offer, with no closing dates confirmed as yet. NASUWT begins its own conference on Saturday (April 8) with a public session on the right to strike.
Teacher pay won’t be the sole focus at the conferences, as the sector comes to terms with the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, who died by suicide as she awaited the results of an Ofsted inspection of the primary school she ran in Reading. Perry’s death has raised a number of questions over the relative bluntness of the Ofsted process, and many are calling for an urgent review of the school inspectorate. On March 23, NEU teachers and headteachers handed in a petition signed by 45,000 people to Downing Street calling for the replacement of the authority with a more ‘fair and effective’ system, and a number of fringe events and motion amendments focusing on the future of school inspection have been scheduled at both conferences.
Donald Trump, who yesterday became the first former US president to face criminal charges when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg confirmed Trump had been indicted, is expected to surrender on Tuesday (April 4), when he will be fingerprinted, photographed, and appear in a Manhattan court. Trump’s reaction to news of the indictment on Thursday – releasing a statement accusing Bragg of election interference and of ‘doing Joe Biden’s dirty work’ – gives a flavour of the mayhem that is about to unfold.
French President Emmanuel Macron begins a four-day visit to China on Wednesday (April 5), where he will be joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a trilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday (April 6). The two European leaders are expected to reiterate calls for China to go no further in supporting Russia over Ukraine following Xi’s visit to Moscow, with von der Leyen warning in a hawkish speech yesterday that the future of the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) could be at stake over China’s approach to the conflict. Their trip follows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s AP interview this week in which he said he had not been in contact with Xi for over a year but would welcome a visit. Xi had been expected to speak with Zelenskyy shortly after his trip to Moscow, though that call does not appear to have materialised.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, will host his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko for talks on Thursday (April 6) in what will be their first in-person encounter since Putin announced he planned to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, ostensibly in response to Britain’s announcement that it would send Ukraine armour-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium. Ukraine denounced Putin’s announcement as ‘nuclear blackmail’ and called for an urgent UN Security Council session, which takes place today, though US officials have expressed scepticism about the planned deployment. In any case, the meeting between the Russian and Belarusian leaders is likely to be closely watched in Western capitals for further details regarding future military cooperation between Minsk and Moscow.