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
Jeremy Hunt will continue the fine tradition of recent chancellors when he holds a major fiscal event just weeks into the job, and the Autumn Statement Hunt delivers on Thursday (November 17) is likely to be just as consequential as Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini-Budget or Rishi Sunak’s first pandemic-era announcements. Hunt will unveil a beefed-up version of the fiscal plan promised by his immediate predecessor in the wake of the market-crashing September budget, with a full evaluation of the public finances from the OBR due alongside the new chancellor’s tax and spend plans.
Hunt has been following the Sunak playbook by drip-feeding content to media in the lead up to the event itself, so we already have a good idea of what to expect from the chancellor’s speech when he steps up to the dispatch box next week: action on tax thresholds, with a potential return for the 50p rate; a new windfall tax on energy firms’ profits to help with household bills; confirmation of public sector pay rates; and a decision on the uprating of benefits and pensions from next year.
While the content of the statement may not be much of a surprise, the devil will be entirely in the detail for Hunt as he attempts to balance the books and fill a financial black hole which some estimates put as high as £60 billion. Amid the fiscal difficulties, the political implications of this event should not be forgotten: rumblings of discontent on the backbenches over potentially manifesto-busting tax rises could easily flare up into another Conservative civil war at a time when the government desperately needs to project stability, particularly at a time when Rishi Sunak’s judgment is already being called into question.
The most controversial World Cup in living memory finally kicks off on Sunday (November 20) as hosts Qatar face Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. The build-up to the tournament has been dominated by criticisms of the country’s stance on LGBTQ+ and human rights, with disgraced former FIFA President Sepp Blatter admitting that awarding the tournament to the gulf state was ‘a mistake’. The treatment of migrant construction workers in particular has come under intense scrutiny, as estimates suggest some 6,500 labourers have lost their lives – a figure dismissed by Qatari authorities.
Qatar has spent an eye-watering $200 billion to stage the tournament, a figure which dwarfs the total spend of the last eight World Cups combined. As part of its preparations, the country has built seven air-conditioned stadiums, a new airport, a metro system, and around 100 new hotels to house fans. With so many issues already hanging over the tournament before a ball has even been kicked, FIFA will be hoping that their gamble to stage a first World Cup on Middle Eastern soil pays off.
It’s a busy week for Rishi Sunak: while Jeremy Hunt is putting the finishing touches on the Autumn Statement, Sunak will be in Bali for the G20 Summit on Tuesday and Wednesday (November 15-16). While Sunak won’t have to make good on his plans to ‘confront’ Vladimir Putin at the gathering after Moscow confirmed the Russian president won’t be attending, he will get a chance to have his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden (Wednesday) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others.
Leaders will look to find solutions to the global cost of living and energy crises, with a virtual address from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky helping to focus minds on the root of so much of the disruption. The summit coverage, however, is likely to be dominated by China after the White House announced that Biden will hold his first in-person talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday (November 14). The long-awaited meeting comes at a particularly tense time for relations between Washington and Beijing, and Biden has said he’s hoping to get an understanding of Xi’s ‘red lines’ and discuss Taiwan.
Following a decidedly underwhelming Republican performance in Tuesday’s midterms, next week is shaping up to be a potentially important one as attention now turns to the 2024 presidential race. At the time of writing, former President Donald Trump has announced no changes to his plans to make a ‘very big announcement’ at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday (November 15) on another run for the White House, though reports suggest he is under pressure to postpone, possibly until after the December 6 run-off in the Georgia Senate race. Trump also faces another decision next week: whether to comply with the subpoena issued by the Jan. 6 Committee requiring him to sit down for a deposition on Monday (November 14) to answer questions under oath on the storming of the US Capitol in 2021.