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
Following this week’s coordinated strikes across the education, rail and public sectors, health unions take their turn at mass action next week as RCN nurses and GMB/Unite ambulance workers undertake the biggest day of NHS strikes in history on Monday (February 6), followed by further nurses’ strikes on Tuesday (February 7) and a Unison union ambulance worker strike on Friday (February 10). There remains little chance of a quick resolution to ongoing pay disputes, with union sources claiming the government is currently stonewalling any offers of future talks on pay.
Former Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick appears at Southwark Crown Court on Monday and Tuesday (February 6-7) for a two-day sentencing hearing, in a case which has further disgraced the Met and sparked a major review of its workforce. Carrick is sentenced after pleading guilty to more than 49 sexual offences including 24 counts of rape, in a campaign which targeted more than a dozen women over two decades. Police have admitted missing numerous opportunities to prevent Carrick’s serial offending, prompting senior officials to warn that public trust in policing is now ‘hanging by a thread’. Met Commissioner Mark Rowley has moved to introduce sweeping reforms to the capital’s police service in response, with a nine-point plan pledging to ‘deliver change and transformation’.
A potentially significant moment in the Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 8) as justices rule on the legality of the Northern Ireland Protocol arrangements. The measures, introduced as part of the Brexit deal struck with the European Union, are challenged by Unionist politicians who argue they are in breach of both the Acts of Union and the Northern Ireland Act. The Protocol’s implementation prompted the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive, and the country remains without a power-sharing government as the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement rapidly approaches. Reports have emerged in recent days that the UK and European officials could be nearing an agreement on revisions to the Protocol, though those suggestions have been rebuffed by EU sources and given short shrift by the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson. The challenge has previously failed in both the High Court and the Court of Appeal.
The Church of England’s General Synod begins in York next week with one item on the agenda which is guaranteed to generate headlines as members consider proposals which would allow priests to bless same-sex unions. The proposals, which had been years in the making, were endorsed by bishops in January and will be put to the church’s governing body on Wednesday (February 8) to decide whether blessings for gay marriages or civil partnerships should be permitted in England’s churches. The plans have split traditionalists and those who want to see the church better reflect life in the 21st century, with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby acknowledging they ‘go too far for some and not nearly far enough for others’ before reportedly suggesting this week he would rather see the church disestablished than split over the issue.
US President Joe Biden delivers his second State of the Union address on Tuesday (February 7), and his first since Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives. As part of a wider focus on his Administration’s economic policies, Biden’s likely to discuss raising the debt limit following talks with Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier this week. He may also touch on gun violence, given the spate of mass shootings since his last State of the Union, and is almost certain to raise the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of Memphis police and urge Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice and Policing Act, something Vice President Kamala Harris brought up when she spoke at Nichols’s funeral earlier this week. Nichols’s parents have confirmed they’ll be attending after being invited as guests of the Congressional Black Caucus. Looking abroad, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is sure to loom large ahead of the anniversary of the invasion on February 24, and Biden may also have words on China following Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing at the start of the week.
EU leaders hold a special summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday (February 9-10) with migration and green industry funding top of the agenda. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen signalled a stronger approach on migration in a letter ahead of the summit, touting a pilot scheme to immediately return failed asylum seekers and urging governments to work together to strengthen external border controls. But much of the focus ahead of the summit has been on the bloc’s response to the US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which contains $369 billion in green industry subsidies that European leaders fear will drive investment stateside unless they can find a way to compete.
Green Industrial Deal proposals unveiled on Wednesday include loosening state aid rules to allow further government support and repurposing some €250 billion from the EU’s pandemic recovery fund to help smaller countries subsidise investments at the same level as richer nations. But the plan has already come under fire from some quarters, with MEPs and ministers among those who have warned of the negative effects of increased state aid and likened drawing on existing funding and proposals to ‘little more than old wine in new bottles’.