A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.
Leading the week
After winning what he described as a ‘convincing’ victory in last week’s confidence vote, Boris Johnson immediately went into policy mode in an attempt to shore up support among the 59% of Tory MPs who backed his leadership and convince the remainder that he’s still the man to take the party forward. The Prime Minister who promised to get Brexit done returns to what would normally be more comfortable ground this week as the government publishes long-awaited new legislation on Monday (June 13) setting out powers to override the Northern Ireland Protocol. While there remains disagreement within the Conservative Party (and even the Cabinet) on the merits of unilaterally changing the agreement, the decision to push ahead with the proposals this week shows Johnson is attempting to wrest the narrative back into territory in which he feels confident in his ability to win over wavering colleagues.
While going toe-to-toe with the EU over a Brexit issue may exercise many of the Prime Minister’s Parliamentary colleagues, there remains a significant number of Conservative MPs who want a commitment to cut taxes to kick-start the economy and ease the burden on struggling households. A set-piece speech on the economy in tandem with Chancellor Rishi Sunak may go ahead this week as the government continues to face criticism of its handling of the cost of living crisis, with fuel prices now reaching record highs on a daily basis and the UK economy forecast to grow at the slowest rate of all major economies in 2023.
With the cost of living sure to be one of the key battlegrounds on which the next election campaign is fought, those in government may get their first taste of voter anger at a major union-led protest in central London on Saturday (June 18). The TUC-coordinated event is likely to be one of the largest public demonstrations in the country since 2019’s Brexit referendum march, concluding with a rally in Parliament Square addressed by Unite general secretary Sharon Graham and other union leaders who have organised strike action on the Underground, at the Royal Mail and by refuse workers across the country in recent months. This show of strength comes ahead of a series of major walkouts on National Rail and the Tube this month, and with further action which could disrupt airports, schools and councils on the cards in what could be a summer of discontent for Johnson’s government.
Tuesday (June 14) is the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell fire, remembering the 72 people who died in the early hours of June 14, 2017, after a fire broke out in the 27-story block of flats in West London. Commemorations include a memorial service at Westminster Abbey and a silent walk beginning at Notting Hill Methodist Church. The £150m-and-counting inquiry into the disaster, set up in August 2017 is expected to publish its findings later this year or early 2023. Ahead of the anniversary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU) general secretary Matt Wrack told PA that he is ‘not hopeful’ that the inquiry will lead to any meaningful change, accusing the government of ignoring failings exposed by the tragedy and abandoning important safety recommendations from the inquiry’s first phase.
Nearly four months on from the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the conflict looks set once again to dominate international news this week. Monday (June 13) sees the start of a regular UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva, which comes in the wake of yesterday’s news that a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic sentenced two British nationals and a Moroccan to death for alleged crimes, claiming they were mercenaries. The session begins with the traditional update from High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, in which she will likely address the conflict. Later in the week (June 16), there is session dedicated to the situation in Mariupol where the last remnants of Ukraine’s armed forces surrendered at the Azovstal steel plant in the second of half of May, with many of them since transferred to Russia to face an uncertain fate.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, meanwhile, will be in Brussels on Wednesday (June 15) for key meetings on the war, including the last gathering of NATO defence ministers before the Madrid summit later this month and a meeting of the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. Allies are likely to use the meeting to discuss the supply of weapons to Ukraine as the conflict grinds on, notably in the east of Ukraine around the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which straddle the strategically important Siverskyi Donets river. Both the US and the UK recently announced they would be sending sophisticated rocket-launcher systems to Ukraine, which the Kremlin warned will only prolong the conflict.
Meanwhile, the looming global food crisis provoked by the conflict is likely to be addressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin when he speaks at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday (June 17). Ukraine has a critical role as a global exporter of wheat, corn, and sunflower oil, and Russia has blamed Kyiv for mining blockaded ports and international sanctions for limiting its own exports, while the West has countered that Russia is “solely responsible for this looming food crisis”.